Jamaica can be Stanford champs

One million dollars is up for grabs for the winners in cricket’s most lucrative regional tournament this weekend.

Jamaican fans

Jamaican fans should have a lot to cheer about

The Stanford 20/20 reaches its conclusion after a month of thrills and spills and although it hasn’t really lived up to expectations excitement wise, the whole tournament has been a huge success in terms of raising the general standards of West Indies cricket.

Sir Allen Stanford deserves to be commended for his vision and largesse. Little teams like Cayman Islands had the chance to experience the big arena and test themselves against the best and although they went out in the first round, it was invaluable experience and inspired the youngsters to pursue their dreams to be full-time pros. That was unimaginable only a few years ago before Mr Moneybags kindly decided to distribute his vast wealth for the good of regional cricket. There are plenty of wealthy people in the Caribbean but it took an American who didn’t know a wicket from a stump not so long ago to make the financial commitment.

Quite predictably, it’s the big four in the semis. Trinidad and Tobago face Barbados tomorrow and defending champions Guyana take on the mighty Jamaica on Saturday at the Stanford Cricket Ground in Antigua. The winners face each other in the final on Sunday.

It promises to be three glorious evenings of pulsating cricket. There have been plenty of memorable moments with great individual innings, fabulous catches, run outs and huge sixes, but the element the tournament has lacked so far is plenty of last over drama. A couple of matches have ended closely but most of them have gone according to form and team strength. If the trend continues the Jamaicans should definitely be playing the Trinis on Sunday.

T&T coasted into the semis with a comfortable 59-run win over St Vincent and The Grenadines last Wednesday. Beaten finalist at the inaugural tournament, Trinidad & Tobago, led by half centuries from Dwayne Bravo and William Perkins, scored 166 for seven off their allotted 20 overs. St Vincent and The Grenadines were restricted to 107 for eight. Bravo and Perkins were the biggest Trini hitters after they lost their first three batsmen cheaply. Kieron Pollard visited Cayman a few months ago and promised a spectacular Stanford tournament but he still has to find his touch. So too captain Daren Ganga who despite being a Test player has batted poorly so far.

Barbados came through their quarter-final thanks again to Jonathan Carter and Ryan Hinds who batted their side to a comfortable 54-run win over Grenada last Friday.

Chasing Barbados’ 152 for four, Grenada, batting one man short, fell for 98 in 18.1 overs. This semi is a repeat of the inaugural Stanford tournament in 2006 and should be a similar result because Barbados were sloppy with bat and ball against Grenada. The Trinis are a much stronger proposition.

Guyana had the toughest quarter-final, against the host nation. A hard fought 10-run victory came after Guyana scored 146 for nine. Antigua and Barbuda Pro Team looked totally out of it until a late rally gave the large partisan some hope but they were restricted to 136 for nine.

Guyana have excellent openers in Sewnarine Chattergoon and Travis Dowlin and waiting in the wings will be Shivnarine Chanderpaul. With captain Ramnaresh Sarwan also in the batting line up, they will have to rely on scoring heavily because their bowling is not as strong. As defending champs Guyana will have the edge in confidence.

Jamaica coasted into the semis with a comfortable eight-wicket win over Nevis Pro team on Saturday. Final scores, Nevis Pro Team 121 for 8, Jamaica 122 for 2 in 17.4 overs. On paper, Jamaica have the best team. They boast West Indies fast bowling pair of Jerome Taylor and Daren Powell and have batsmen of the caliber of West Indies captain Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Brenton Parchment, Carlton Baugh and Shawn Findlay. A formidable team that would give any national side a stern test. They’ll start favourites against Guyana and if they get to the final should win that too.