Jamaica upbeat ahead of Guyana
Recently-appointed manager Courtney Francis is confident that reigning champions Jamaica will continue its positive run when the team embarks on a series of away matches in the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) four-day tournament.
The Jamaican contingent departed Sabina Park yesterday en route to Antigua, where they will face Guyana in a day/night match at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound.
"We are looking to continue doing well. We need to ensure that we come out of the game getting more points than Guyana and that will help to get us into the play-offs (semi-final stage).
"Playing Guyana will be our first away game this season; it will be our first match under (artificial) lights and it will also be our first match using pinks balls this season, so those are new variables. It's more of a mental challenge and we have spoken about it and focused on doing well," he told the Observer.
Jamaica have recorded home wins against the Windward Islands, Barbados and the Leewards Islands, respectively, to be top of the preliminary standings on 36 points. The Guyanese team, which has been unable to host matches on home soil due to internal board problems, lie second on 24.
Head coach Junior Bennett foresees a competitive match, with Guyana having West Indies leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo, left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul, as well as the left-handed batting pair of Assad Fudadin and Narsingh Deonarine at their disposal.
"There is no question that Guyana is always a tough opponent and they have been playing good cricket since the start of this tournament. They have a good spin attack and there is no questioning the quality of Bishoo and Permaul. Over the years both bowlers have done exceptionally well," he said.
Despite being happy with Jamaica's start to the tournament, Bennett expressed some dissatisfaction with some aspects of his team's play.
"I'm not totally satisfied because we have some areas of concern with our batting. There are weaknesses at the top of the order. I'm also not really happy with our fielding because we dropped too many chances in the first three games," he said.
Red balls are customarily used in four-day cricket, but the pink ball concept was tried two years ago when each team played at least one day/night match. It is re-introduced this season by the regional board in a bid to improve attendance at first-class matches.
The tactician reiterated his apprehension about its use since he believes it strips and changes colour as it becomes worn.
"Whenever the pink balls strips it looks almost white and the sight screens are white. On that occasion (in 2010) there was only one session under lights. Now it will be two, so the majority of the cricket will be under lights. For me that is our major challenge," he said.
Jamaica are scheduled to play Trinidad & Tobago at the Queen's Park Oval in Port-of-Spain from March 9-12 and the Combined Campuses and Colleges at the Three Ws Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados from March 23-26 to complete their preliminary fixtures.
Jamaica squad --Tamar Lambert (capt), Danza Hyatt, Brenton Parchment, Donovan Pagon, Brendan Nash, Tamar Lambert, David Bernard, Carlton Baugh, Nikita Miller, Andrew Richardson, Odean Brown, Sheldon Cotterell, Simon Jackson, Jamie Merchant.