As the count down to the Stanford 20/20 cricket tournament reaches its last few days, Clico Cayman’s expectant cricketers feel they are perfectly honed to cause another upset.
They beat St Lucia in the Stanford 20/20 two years ago and feel set for a repeat victory when they take on their East Caribbean neighbours again in Antigua on 26 January.
It is the opening match of a showcase tournament that culminates in a $1 million team prize for the winners at the Stanford Cricket Ground, aka Sticky Wicket, in St John’s on 16 February. It’s all funded by Texan billionaire Sir Allen Stanford – now based in Antigua – who wants to revive Caribbean cricket. There are lots more incentives besides and Clico Cayman’s blend of seasoned veterans and precocious youngsters are determined to punch above their weight again. The Lucians won’t be easy and once past that obstacle it’s the mighty Trinidad and Tobago who beat Clico Cayman convincingly last time. Nevertheless, this time round they are much fitter and better prepared. Morale and team spirit is high which showed over the weekend as the national team, playing as Cable & Wireless Cayman, crushed visitors British Virgin Islands by 10 wickets on Saturday.
BVI play Dominica at Stanford the day after and even allowing for absentees and injuries at the Smith Road Oval, they were tame.
Cayman restricted BVI to only 80 runs for nine wickets with Ryan Bovell taking the bowling honours with 3-16 from his four overs. Maybe BVI were tired as they had just easily beaten Esso Cayman in blazing sunlight approaching 90 degrees, but that should not detract from an excellent performance by the hosts.
Openers Steve Gordon and Ainsley Hall played themselves in for four overs against mainly spin bowling and then blasted their way to a winning total without releasing too many loose shots. In the ninth over, Hall unleashed a huge six that distressed passing motorists. Another Hall six in the same over had spectators in the pavilion scrambling clear. They reached 82-0 in 11 overs. Gordon finished on 40 and Hall on 26.
In the earlier match, Esso Cayman scored 102-7. Keneil Irving top scored with 32 not out. BVI knocked off the runs easily thanks to a solid opening partnership between Kevin Joseph (17) and Sheldon John (40). Kelvin Jeffers hit 24 as BVI won by seven wickets on reaching 103-3.
Vice-captain Gordon skippered the Stanford side in 2006. He said: ‘I thought we played very well as a team today. We bowled, fielded and batted well. I think BVI were a little bit surprised by our all round strength and I think that’s what got the better of them.
‘We only had 80 to chase so were able to basically have a look and then started to play some shots. It has been proven from the first time at Stanford that spin bowling was very effective in the competition. So you’ll find that a lot of teams will have spinners. We ourselves have three.
‘I think we’re about 90 per cent where we want to be and with the remaining time we should be 100 per cent. The team is playing really well and we’re gelling really well together and we’re basically very happy. I just think we need to get a little bit sharper and get mentally ready to take on St Lucia.’
Development coach Theo Cuffy said: ‘Today was like another day at the office. The boys executed some plans and we experimented with our format, what we want to approach with and I think they performed credibly today. It was well put together, very professional.
‘We had a discussion before and I asked my batsmen to step up to the plate. I want to see them occupy the crease. I don’t want to see five or six people batting in a 20 over game, it really annoys me. So if my first five batsmen bat 20 overs we should get a good score.
‘There were a few loose shots and that’s because when you have a small squad like we have you tend to become complacent. I don’t want that. I want the guys to stay focused. Each man is fighting for a pick on this team and obviously, every man must be able to be worth his pick. So they need to go there and do what’s expected of them.
‘With two weeks to go the guys are understanding the roles they need to play better and better. We should be able to give a better account of ourselves this year. We’re better prepared in lots of ways. Technically, they’re batting better and they’re more experienced. The newness of the tournament, being on television, the bigness of the crowds… we think we’re over that now.’