FOLLOW THROUGH: Trinidad and Tobago batsman Evin Lewis practices a shot in the nets during the national team’s training session at the National Cricket Centre in Balmain, Couva, on Wednesday in preparation for today’s first day of the Regional Four-Day semi-final against the Windward Islands. —Photo: DAVE PERSAD

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TOUGH BATTLE

By Roger Seepersad

Trinidad and Tobago will be bracing for a tough battle against the Windward Islands in the Regional Four-Day Championship semi-final starting today at Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain from 10 a.m.

T&T skipper Denesh Ramdin said that the hosts will not be taking their opponents lightly despite their 186-run victory against Liam Sebastien’s team earlier this season. “They are a good team but we know they are going to be a hard nut to crack,” said Ramdin.

Both captains are confident heading into the clash after strengthening their respective teams with returning players. T&T booked their place in the semis after finishing second on the Regional Four-Day standings while the Windwards were third on the seven-team table.

For the hosts, all-rounder Akeal Hosein has recovered from a thigh strain that kept him out of T&T’s previous four matches and should be in the starting line-up for the semi. The left-arm orthodox spinner grabbed 11 wickets against the Windwards in T&T’s first game this season and scored a century in the following match before being sidelined.

However, T&T will be without veteran off-spinner Amit Jaggernauth, who retired from first-class cricket on Thursday. PowerGen off-spinner Ansil Bhagan was named as a last-minute replacement for Jaggernauth.

The Windwards will have off-spinner Shane Shillingford returning from a side strain and he will be a key part of their plans against T&T, who are coming off a drawn encounter against Guyana when leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo tormented the T&T batsmen to finish the match with 15 wickets.

“We have to play to our strengths,’’ said Windwards skipper Sebastien. ‘’Shane is one our strength. He is an international bowler and he is our leading spinner, so having him back it will strengthen the team and gives us an extra batting option later down the order. He is a good addition to the team especially at this important stage of the season.” 

However, the Windwards will be going into the match short of outdoor practice after rain on Thursday forced them to train indoors at the match venue. Sebastien is, however, satisfied with the performance of his bowlers so far in the competition but called for more consistency from his batsmen.

“We have to be consistent with the bat. That has been our problem so far this season. We have not batted consistently as a team. The bowlers have been doing exceptionally well... once we put runs on the board it will be a difficult game for Trinidad and Tobago,” added Sebastein. “They are a strong team... we have to respect them but we don’t fear them,” said the Windwards skipper.

“The only way to become a champion team is to beat good teams. This is a hurdle we have to overcome. We have been reaching to the semi-finals many years now and we have not been able to get over that hurdle, so we are looking to go one better this year and get to the finals and see what happens from there,” he ended.

Meanwhile, Barbados host Jamaica in the other semi-final, bowling off today at Kensington Oval, Barbados.


SQUADS

T&T (from): Denesh Ramdin (captain), Rayad Emrit, Darren Bravo, Lendl Simmons, Arian Barath, Imran Khan, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Shannon Gabriel, Ansil Bhagan, Ricky Jaipaul, Marlon Richards, Akeal Hosein. Kelvin Williams (coach), Manohar Ramsaran (manager).


Windward Islands (from): Liam Sebastien (captain), Sunil Ambris, Miles Bascombe, Shane Shillingford, Romel Currency, Johnson Charles, Delorn Johnson, Keddy Lesporis, Mervin Matthew, Nelon Pascal, Kenroy Peters, Devon Smith, Tyrone Theophile. Ian Allen (coach), Lockhart Sebastien (manager).

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