Reigning National League Premier Division two-day competition champions PowerGen Penal Sports club will start their title defence today against last year’s runners-up, First Citizens Clarke Road United at Wilson Road in Penal from 10 a.m. but will be without one of their big guns from the previous season.
Aggressive left-handed opener Evin Lewis, who shined for the Trinidad and Tobago team at the Champions League Twenty20 last year, has taken up a contract with newly promoted Jenexcon Tableland, while left-arm pacer Tevin Robertson made the move to Moosai Sports.
Even without the pair, PowerGen still boast a strong line-up which includes Trinidad and Tobago middle order batsman Jason Mohammed and aggressive opener Nicholas Sookdeosingh, who was the T&T Cricket Board (TTCB) Cricketer of the Year for the 2013 season.
Zachurrie Ragoonath comes in for Lewis while Strassark Sankar replaces Robertson and spinner Ancil Bhaggan also joins the PowerGen team to add strength to their bowling department which will be led by spinners Kavesh Kantasingh and Jovan Ali.
The squad also includes prospective national Under-19 players Jeron Maniram and Jyd Goolie, who both played key roles in the national Under-17 team’s triumph in the regional Under-17 championships last year.
The champs though will be in for a tough fight. They won first innings points against Clarke Road in their drawn match last season at Syne Village but with home advantage, Clarke Road’s young team could spring an upset.
All-rounder Yannick Ottley, in from Moosai Sports, and spinner Kissoondath Magram, coming from Alescon Comets, are the two new faces in the Clarke Road squad which will be captained by Sean Siloch and includes veteran off-spinner Mukesh Persad and Guyanese batsman Ryan Ramdass.
Promising teenage pacer Shane Smith could also get an extended run in the Clarke Road first team this season. Smith missed the regional Under-17 tournament last year due to injury and will be looking to force his way into the Under-19 team for 2014.
In another big game this weekend, last year’s fourth place team Queen’s Park Cricket Club, who are going for their third league crown in four years, host 2013 third place side Moosai Sports at Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain.
The Parkites will have all-rounder Kevon Cooper, pacer Shannon Gabriel and middle order batsman Marlon Barclay--who is trying to reclaim his place in the national team--in their line-up this weekend, while Moosai, who have not won the TTCB top competition in over a decade, are likely to have the services of Nicholas Alexis, who has been in good form for the East Zone team with half centuries in his two previous Sunday League 50 over matches.
Queen’s Park are also unbeaten in the Sunday League this season, while Moosai head into the clash with losses in their previous 50 over matches.
Moosai also lost a few key players ahead of the 2014 season, with Aneil Kanhai, Kjorn and Yannick Ottley all taking up offers elsewhere.
In other matches, the other newly promoted teams, CLICO Preysal and Munroe Road Cricket Club square off at Munroe Road, while Caldrac Club and Esmeralda Sports who were seventh and eighth respectively in last year’s competition, face each other at Gilbert Park in California.
Comets, who were fifth last season, host last year’s ninth placed team Seenath’s Auto Bamboo Sports at Pierre Road in Charlieville while Merry Boys, who were sixth in 2013, host Tableland at Diego Martin Recreation Ground.
Of all the teams promoted this season, Tableland seem to be the one that could cause some serious problems for the other Premier Division outfits, having already beaten PowerGen twice this season in the UWI T20 tournament last month and the Sunday League earlier this week.
They also have a victory over Clarke Road in the Sunday League.
All matches bowl off today at 10 a.m. and continue tomorrow from 9.30 a.m.
National League fixtures
Premier Division Round 1
Merry Boys vs Jenexcon Tableland, Diego Martin Recreation Ground
Alescon Comets vs Seenath’s Auto Bamboo Sports, Pierre Road
Munroe Road Cricket Club vs CLICO Preysal, Munroe Road
Caldrac Club vs Esmeralda Sports Club, Gilbert Park
QPCC vs Moosai Sports, Queen’s Park Oval
First Citizens Clarke Road United vs PowerGen Penal, Wilson Road