Bennett - Jamaica on target
KINGSTON, JAMAICA - Jamaica's senior cricket team coach Junior Bennett believes his players are in good shape heading into the fifth-round regional four-day clash against Trinidad & Tobago at the Queen's Park Oval in Port of Spain, starting Friday.
The Jamaicans have beaten the Windward Islands, Barbados, the Leeward Islands and Guyana to lead the preliminary standings on maximum 48 points, and Bennett told the Observer they are ready to battle the second-placed T&T outfit.
"We are ready. We have been playing fairly well since the start of the season, so we are just looking to continue playing some good, consistent cricket.
"From the start of the competition the objective has been to get more points than our opponents. It is important that we get vital points so that we have home advantage in the semi-final," he said at Sabina Park before the team departed for the twin-island republic yesterday evening.
Led by the astute captaincy of Tamar Lambert, the Jamaicans, seeking an unprecedented fifth straight four-day title, are already through to the semi-final stage where the top two teams at the end of the preliminary phase will enjoy the luxury of playing on home soil.
T&T are on 28 points, with a game in hand, while the Guyanese team is joint third with Barbados on 24. The Combined Campuses and Colleges (12), the Windwards (12) and the Leewards (0) are the other three teams.
Officials of the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) advised the Observer that the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) only yesterday released batsman Danza Hyatt from the regional team's training camp and he has been drafted into the 13-man squad for the Trinidad match. Hyatt replaces young all-rounder Jermaine Blackwood, who was originally chosen to fill the void left by the hard-hitting St Catherine CC batsman.
Bennett, who has coached Jamaica to three of the previous four domestic four-day triumphs, said he expects the bowling attack to maintain the discipline shown in the earlier rounds.
"We expect our spinners to continue to bowl well. I also believe that our fast-bowlers have bowled extremely well throughout the tournament. They have been making early in-roads in the opponents' batting so I'm looking for the entire bowling unit to do what they have been doing all season," he said.
The left-arm orthodox spinner Miller and leg-spinner Brown are two of the top five bowlers in the tournament with 25 and 20 wickets, respectively.
Trinidadian off-spinner Sunil Narine leads with 31.
Former West Indies vice-captain Brendan Nash is the second highest run scorer in the tournament with 350, including a double hundred against Guyana in the previous round. Guyana's Narsingh Deonarine has scored three runs more.
Jamaica round out their preliminary fixtures against the Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) at the Three Ws Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados from March 23-26.