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Windwards hunt One-day final berth

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If the Windwards Senior Cricket squad wins today’s semifinal against Guyana and goes on to Sunday’s final, it will be a further slap in my face. For I had already written them off, and lumped them in the down heap of regional cricket.

The Windwards, regarded as the Cinderella of Caribbean bat and ball, have been entrenched at the bottom, or near last place in many a competition. The selection of the 2004 One-day squad was another cause of concern for typical Windwards fans. {{more}}

But once the team was chosen, they proceeded to dumbfound the critics with some enigmatic performances. Having lost two games in succession after winning the first, the Windwards rebounded with gusto to march into the semifinal with some aplomb.

Magnificent victories against Leewards and Trinidad and Tobago came as a boost to the Windwards.

Those last two wins came with much assurance. A six by captain Rawl Lewis, off the second to last ball of the allotted 50 overs, proved a tremendous fillip to the Windwards party in a stunning victory over the Leewards.

And if that was not enthralling enough, Dominican Fernix Thomas produced perhaps the over of his life to guide his team to an improbable win over T&T. Needing three runs in the final over, Thomas was miserly to the extreme conceding one run to give his team the semifinal berth.

Windwards placed second with 14 points, one behind Barbados.

Guyana has been something of a bogey to the Windwards. Once Neil McGarrell, Nahendra Nagamootoo, or any spinner for that matter, has the ball, you could count on a Windwards collapse or at least difficulty in scoring.

Today will be a test of their ability to adjust.

The Windwards have found themselves at the unfortunate end of many a regional decision, which has helped to retard the growth of their fortunes. Since they won the Red Stripe Bowl in 2000, the format of the tournament has been such to ensure that things are difficult for them to repeat such an attainment.

How could organisers justify the introduction of North and South Windward groupings, Antigua as the Leewards champion, and Windwards’ One-day winner St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in one attempt. While units such as the University of the West Indies, and Canada, were accused of watering down the tournament, persons were concerned about the competitive nature of the tournament.

This year’s championship saw innovations that improved the standard. The bonus points paid dividends, not only in raising the standard of the tournament, but also in maintaining the interest in games that otherwise would have petered out into mere formalities.

If the Windwards overcome Guyana today, one can anticipate another showdown with whoever the other finalist will be. In which case a repeat of the 2000 performance cannot be ruled out.

That will be an incentive to the Windwards for the US $10,000 top prize, which is enough attraction as it stands. And don’t forget that there is another US$2,000 for the semi-final win.

Besides, the tournament’s best batsman, best bowler, best allrounder and best wicketkkeeper have US$500 bonuses up for grabs – good foreign exchange the Windwards could do well with.

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