WITH FOUR straight victories in a two-year period over Trinidad and Tobago, host team Barbados will start as favourites when they entertain their arch rivals over the next four days, starting at Kensington Oval this morning.
The visitors enjoy a seven-point lead over the Bajans and are two notches higher up the standings with a match in hand but the confidence level of the Barbados team, led by Kraigg Brathwaite in his first season at the helm, should be superior having enjoyed the better of all recent exchanges in the four-day format. Barbados comfortably won both meetings last year, the first by ten wickets at the Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain, Trinidad, during the round robin phase and the second a crushing triumph by an innings and 22 runs in the final at Kensington.
On both occasions pacer Miguel Cummins, who is again in the Barbados squad, made a significant impact. In the preliminary game he took seven for 45 in the first innings as T&T limped to 109 all out. In the second innings he finished with two for 46 while left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn did the bulk of the damage with five for 49. The only half century on either side was scored by Barbadian lower-order batsman Javon Scantlebury-Searles who is not in the current Barbados squad.
In the final Cummins took five for 30 in the first innings as T&T managed just 110 and four for 75 in the second when they rallied to 237. Brathwaite scored a century for Barbados while Rashidi Boucher, Jonathan Carter and Kirk Edwards, who was captain on that occasion, reached the 40s.
Much will again depend on Brathwaite, Edwards and Carter, but Boucher, who started the season, has been replaced by left-handed opener Omar Phillips.
T&T will be missing Lendl Simmons who scored a pugnacious 140 off 114 balls in last year’s final. Simmons is in Bangladesh with the West Indies T20 team, but the Trinis have left-hander Darren Bravo who did not play in either of the two contests last year. Impressive victories, by 186 runs over the Windward Islands and by 107 runs over the Leeward Islands, have lifted T&T to second position on 34 points. Leaders Jamaica, also having played just two matches, top the standings on 35 points.
The Windward Islands, winners over Barbados in the opening round, sit in third position on 29 points, while Barbados hold on to fourth spot with 27 points. Both Barbados and the Windwards have played three matches. Benn, whose left-arm spin is expected to be crucial to the home team’s chances of success, is approaching two significant career landmarks. He is however more likely to capture the six wickets required to reach 300 in first class cricket than score the 122 still needed to complete 2,000 first class runs. Jonathan Carter, with 1,732 runs behind him, is 268 short of 2,000.
On the T&T side, Bravo needs a further 209 to complete 4,000 first-class runs, while pacer Shannon Gabriel is just one wicket away from having 100 first-class scalps.