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The right mix

Ezra Stuart

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TODAY’S Sagicor General Shield final at the Desmond Haynes Oval, will see a mix of young and experienced cricketers on show.
The two finalists, Ince Transport MTW and Pine Hill Dairy (PHD) St John Cultural are bringing that blend in ages to the Carlton Club in Black Rock for  the 40-over per innings championship match, bowling off at 10:30 a.m.
This year’s competition has been severely spoiled by several rained-out matches, including the rescheduled semi-final between MTW and Nature Valley Lodge.
But the final, which carries a first prize of $8 000 with the runners-up receiving $5 500, should be a riveting and keenly contested match between two seemingly evenly matched teams.
Difficult to predict
That St John Cultural play in the Upper Intermediate and MTW in the Intermediate division, is really insignificant when it comes to limited overs cricket, and predicting a winner is extremely difficult in this final, which should attract a large crowd with no Super Cup or Division One matches slated for today.
While history may favour “Culture” as they were back-to-back champions in 1995 and 1996 and losing finalist in 1999, the majority of the players from that era, like Hubert Brathwaite, Robert Seale, Cato Clarke, Geoffrey Reid, Horace Batson, Oneal Padmore and Paul Rowe, are not part of this year’s line-up.
Only former Banks’ captain Lewis Spooner, Frank Skeete and current skipper Adrian “Hefford” Howell, from the old brigade, remain with several Under-23 players now forming the nucleus of the line-up.
Instead, “Culture” have recruited Garrison schoolboy batsman Kyle Franklyn and off-spinning all-rounder Kemar Craigg of Queen’s College.
There is also the possibility that the highly touted Barbados Under-19 left-handed batsman Anthony Alleyne, who is home on a break from his scholarship at Dulwich College in England, may represent St John Cultural.
The pace attack will be led by Howell, with his double swing action, former BCL pacer, Damien Sealy and left-arm seamer Marlon Knight.
MTW, beaten finalists in 2007 and 2008 to school teams, Combermere and Lodge, as well as in 2001 to last year’s winners Dover, have been one of the island’s most consistent Intermediate teams but have no silverware to show at this level.
This year may be their time to put that right.
They have several players with Division One experience such as aggressive left-handed batsman Eric Batson, who played with YMPC and UWI. His brother, Justin Batson, a hard-hitting lower batsman and Kevin Gittens, who had a short stint with the BCL, Junior Holder, formerly of LIME and attacking batsman Raymond Kellman, are also key players, with both bat and ball.
A tall, slim and solid right-hander, Gittens also bowls steady off-spin while Holder seems to fancy his batting more than his leg-spin these days. Gittens and Eric Batson both hit half-centuries in helping MTW to beat BCL on a faster run rate in the quarter-finals, when they made a healthy 221.
The multitalented Sheldon Roach, a past CARIFTA Games gold medallist in the shot put and discus and current Barbados volleyballer, will open the bowling with Camar Reece.
But both teams are likely to serve up a dose of spin with veteran Denis “Pemmy” Payne, also known in the calypso arena, hoping to be on song with his slow left-arm spin.
“This team is a balanced team with relatively young players who have come from the school system. The batting is extremely strong and exciting,” a confident MTW manager Winston Coppin said.
Talent, maturity
“They are very talented and I’ve seen a maturity and enthusiasm this year which I’ve not seen in previous years. I believe we really have a good chance of winning this year. I think that given past experiences and past history of the team, we have to win the competition this time. It is almost imperative that we do,” Coppin asserted.
And he reckons that the big occasion which seemed “to overwhelm and overawe” in previous finals, should not be a factor this time around.
“This year, I think they are prepared. I think they are more mature and I expect them to win. We have been doing all the things that should lend itself to a good final, on MTW’s part,” he noted.
St John Cultural’s coach Nigel Seale, who was part of four-time kings, Yorkshire’s outfit during the 1990s, believes the Gall Hill-based side can win their third Shield title.
“The players are very keen and seem to be ready. It is just for them to put what we have been doing in training into plan and I am quite confident we can win. Our chances are just as good as any.
“We have four experienced players who bring stability to the team and guide the youngsters on how they should play under pressure,” Seale said.
Seale admitted the team’s batting, led by the seasoned Charles “Hicks” Antrobus, Spooner, all-rounder Richard Young, Franklyn, wicketkeeper André Phillips and Shane Howard, hasn’t been tested as yet.
“We have a very good bowling attack. The highest score against us has been 111 but I’m certain that whatever target, if we have to chase one, that we will get it,” he said.
The bowling strength was manifested both the quarter-finals and semis when they dismissed Market Hill for 69 and Mount Gay North Stars for 111.
Off-spinner Craigg gained the Man Of The Match award on each occasion with five for 14 and three for 24. He will be supported by Young in the spin department and possibly Alleyne, if he plays.
“I can’t say for sure if he will play but if he does play, it will be a big boost to the team as he is one of the best young batsmen around,” noted Seale.
Spectators will be admitted free and three of them will be selected by the sponsors for a “bowl off” during the lunch interval with $600 at stake.
The successful National Sports Council Under-13 cricketers will be running the food stall as well as seeking donations as part of their fund-raising for the annual cricket tour of Trinidad and Tobago in December and a tour to England next summer.
MTW (from): Curtis Greene (captain), Eric Batson, Kevin Gittens, Raymond Kellman, Junior Holder, Justin Batson, Ariel Forde, Clish Gittens, Denis Payne, Jamal Kirton, Sheldon Roach, Camar Reece, Seon Jacobs, Sherwin Franklin. Winston Coppin (manager).
St John Cultural (from): Adrian Howell (captain), Charles Antrobus, André Phillips, Kyle Franklyn, Richard Young, Shane Howard, Lewis Spooner, Frank Skeete, Kemar Craigg, Marlon Knight, Damien Sealy, Kevin Howard, Jonathan Holder, Ricardo Ward, Anthony Alleyne. Nigel Seale (coach).