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Craig Cozier In Antigua


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NEW captain Kirk Edwards says Barbados are well prepared to challenge for a first-ever regional Twenty20 cricket title as they begin their Caribbean Twenty20 campaign against the Netherlands at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium tonight at 8.
The squad’s build-up has been lengthy and thorough, with a rust-shedding warm-up series against Canada and the Combined Colleges and?Campuses (CCC) before Christmas, followed by four straight wins (including two over Trinidad and Tobago) on the way to winning the UWI CO Williams T20 Festival last week.
“We’re pretty confident. We had good preparation in Barbados with the Festival and the guys are feeling good and confident at the moment,” Edwards said after his team’s final training session at the American University of Antigua ground near Jabberwock Beach.
Edwards, fresh off a sensational opening year at international level, will be a crucial cog in the title challenge, even though murmurs still abound surrounding his suitability for the fast-paced Twenty20 game.
“My role in Twenty20 cricket, it all depends. I’m a guy who plays situations. We have a lot of boundary getters. My role is normally to come out there and work around the ball and bat through the overs. It might be required for me to step it up at some time and when that time comes, that’s what I’ll give my best effort at.”
His opening partner, the explosive Dwayne Smith, can prove to be the difference-maker during the tournament.
Smith has been in prolific form and, still just 28, will be keen to show off a new-found consistency to the watching West Indies selectors.
Team director Hendy Springer said the middle order was “a floating one”, with the former Barbados off-spinner cognizant of using the best combinations at the right time.
“We have a number of left-handers and right-handers who can get the job done, so we have to be flexible to allow for the best use of our resources,” Springer said.
Jonathan Carter and Ryan Hinds are left-handed accumulators while right-handers Alcindo Holder, Carlos Brathwaite, Ashley Nurse and emerging wicket-keeper Shane Dowrich are more stroke-making dashers.
It makes for a formidable batting line-up.
But Edwards is wary of aiming too high on a Sir Vivian Richards Stadium surface that has seen first innings totals ranging between 125 and 134 in the first four matches.
“I’ve been hearing complaints about the pitch being two-paced. The guys from Sussex have been saying it, the guys from other teams have been saying it,” Edwards admitted.
“Obviously, when you come into a tournament and you’re playing at a venue, you tend to look at the par score and then you make your assessment from there. I don’t see that as much of a problem. If we keep it simple and we do the basic things well, we tend to come out on top.”
Barbados will likely be without pacer Fidel Edwards for the opening match against the Dutch.
The fiery 29-year-old played for his Big Bash team, the Sydney Thunder, as recently as Sunday and his long trek back from Down Under only sees him touch down in Antigua a few hours before the match begins.
The Barbados captain admitted his spinners Sulieman Benn, Ashley Nurse and Ryan Hinds would be crucial performers on the tricky Antigua pitch, but did not discount the impact his fast men could make.
“They could be as effective as they want. It’s all about adjusting,” the skipper said. “You can’t bowl on this pitch like how you would on another pitch. Every pitch demands a different strategy.”
Edwards said that despite the Netherlands’ opening defeat at the hands of Sussex on Tuesday, Barbados would not be jotting down an opening win just yet.
“You never underestimate anybody. You just come and play them like any other good cricket team and play hard cricket, and the result we’ll have it to swing in our favour.”
The Netherlands’ key players will be Alexei Kervezee, the Worcestershire batsman, Peter Borren, the captain and all-rounder and fast bowler Timm van der Gugten, who claimed a five-wicket haul in the opening match.
Batting coach Emmerson Trotman, a long-time coach of the Netherlands team, will renew acquaintances with his former charges, expecting no less than a victory.