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AT THE END of the eighth series of matches in the LIME Division One season, Sagicor UWI are still the highest-ranked cricket team in Barbados for the period 2007 to the present. After winning the championship comfortably with 146 points last year, ahead of favourites TeleBarbados Carlton (142 points), and the distant third-placed ICBL Empire (130), UWI now have 75 points. They share this season’s championship lead with Spartan, who also have 75 points. The Cave Hill giants top the ratings with 168.994 points, a slight improvement over the last series (+1.448), but a noticeable decline of 4.687 basic points from the 173. 681 recorded at the end of 2009. Superb batting Superb batting performances from captain Omar Phillips (434 runs at an average of 62.00 in just seven innings), Nekoli Parris (344 runs) and Romel Currency (318 runs), and outstanding off-spin bowling from the leading wicket-taker for the season, Ryan Austin (45 wickets at an average of 14.91), have enabled UWI to stamp their dominance. Unsuspectingly, though, CGI Maple have shot up three places into second place with 151.543 points, bypassing the Guardian General Barbados Youth, Empire and Carlton, who at the end of last year were ranked second, third and fourth, respectively. Maple’s massive jump of almost 13 basic points (12.796), stems from consistency and an enlightened approach to weekend cricket. With no stars, except for West Indies fast bowler Kemar Roach whose availability is often limited by his higher duties, the team from Trents have 73 points and are in a strong position to claim the title. Empire remain the third-ranked club with 138.671 points, despite falling 4.915 basic points from their 2009 rating (143.568). Barely within striking distance of the 2010 title with 63 points (or 12 points behind the leaders), the Bank Hall side rely on strong fundamentals, centred on their key national players Kevin Stoute, Jason Haynes, Alcindo Holder, Javon Searles and national captain Ryan Hinds. Icon Carlton are rated fourth with 138.086, fractionally below Empire. Carlton’s two-year streak of excellence begun with former Test icon Desmond Haynes, who coached the Black Rock side to two crowns last year (Twenty20 and 50-Overs competitions). In addition, Carlton have a strong belief in themselves and phenomenal batting power, led by West Indies opener Dale Richards (445 runs, average 63.57 in seven innings, two centuries and two 50s), and Vonrick Nurse (357, averaging 44.63), along with an improving bowling staff. Carlton dropped 2.292 basic points from their 140.378 rating in 2009, despite getting the better of LIME in the last series. Significant rise Super Centre Spartan check in at fifth with 133.429, a significant rise of nearly ten basic points (9.478) over last year. A team that is obviously in transition, the “Parkites” are flying high this season with a good mix of pace and spin, while Maradon Bend (353 runs, average 44.13) and Wayne Blackman (320 runs, average 35.56) have kept the side in the hunt for those elusive batting points. After a resounding victory and 12 match points (no batting points included) against one of the season’s strugglers, ESA Field Pickwick, Spartan are serious contenders for this year’s title. The Barbados Youth have taken the biggest hit among the top clubs, falling 14.764 basic points from last year’s ratings, and are now in sixth place on 132.292. Plagued with the frequent loss of their best players to national duties, the Youth have had to rely on a cadre of alternate players to fill the breach. Not included in the relegation system, the youngsters are free to play without pressure and have hardly played a game that went beyond the first innings for either team. BNB St Catherine (118.583), Pickwick (117.641), LIME (111.657) and Caribbean Lumber YMPC (110.663) are ranked seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth respectively. The significant gap between these teams and the top six in the ratings may appear moot at first glance, but LIME and St Catherine are worthy challengers for the title. Lost their way Pickwick, however, have lost their way this year, as can happen to any team in any given year. Like the Youth, Pickwick fell 14.491 over the first half of this season, suffering massive losses to Carlton, YMPC and Spartan. Despite leg-spinner Ryan Layne’s heroics with the ball (35 wickets at 18.23 apiece, including four five-wicket hauls), and Kyle Hope’s return to form (439 runs, average 43.90), the St Philip club have struggled to register batting points – the major symptom of the “relegation virus”. St Catherine are sixth after eight series with 66 points, but have been far too inconsistent on the field. • Carlisle Best is a former Barbados cricket captainand West Indies batsman.