Sport

Crucial contest!

Scorpions host Red Force as sixth round of regional cricket bowls off

BY SANJAY MYERS
Senior staff reporter
myerss@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, December 07, 2017



JAMAICA Scorpions enter today's start of the sixth-round regional four-day match against Trinidad and Tobago Red Force at Sabina Park saddled by bowling concerns due to the absence of talismanic Captain Nikita Miller.

The 35-year-old left-arm finger spinner is scheduled to depart the island tomorrow to fulfil One-Day International duties for the West Indies against hosts New Zealand. Batsman Paul Palmer, 25, will assume captain's responsibilities for the Scorpions.

Miller, who took an astonishing 23 wickets in his last two matches for the Scorpions after missing the early part of the season, is replaced in the 13-man squad by young pace bowler Odean Smith. The rest of the Scorpions' bowling set-up — including ace wrist spinner Damion Jacobs — is yet to set the competition alight.

Robert Samuels, the Scorpions head coach, admits that Miller's absence leaves a huge void.“It's not going to be easy because the captain, Nikita Miller, is not here; he'll be sadly missed. He's irreplaceable as the stats will show, but that is why people play cricket — so that West Indies can select them and they can go and do international duties. The bowlers have to step up and make sure that we get wickets,” he told the Jamaica Observer after yesterday's training at Sabina Park.

The Scorpions are third in the six-franchise league with 55 points, just behind the second-placed Red Force (61.8). The defending champions Jaguars lead with 86.4 points, while the rest of the table comprises the fourth-placed Hurricanes (49.6), the fifth-placed Pride (48) and cellar team Volcanoes (21.8).“They [the Red Force] are a decent team, they are in second place and we are in third place so it's almost a top-of-the-table clash. I'm expecting Jacobs, who has got one wicket at home, to come back to his ways of getting wickets,” Samuels continued.

When the teams met earlier in the season in Trinidad, the Scorpions held on for a draw after both sides posted big first-innings totals. Fabian Allen, who scored 169 not out against the Red Force in the first-leg encounter before suffering a calf injury, returned to strike 105 not out in the home win over Windward Islands Volcanoes last week. He is the Scorpions' leading batsman so far this season, with handy support from left-hand opener John Campbell.

“The batting, on a whole, has been holding its own. But my concern is mainly the bowling department and a little bit on the wicketkeeping side also,” the Scorpions coach noted.Concerns over the wicketkeeper slot led selectors to omit Steven Taylor, who floored chances against the Volcanoes, and replace him with Aldane Thomas. Batsman Oraine Williams is included at the expense of Garth Garvey.

The Red Force will also be undermanned with key batsmen Jason Mohammed and Kyle Hope heading off to New Zealand for the one-dayers. However, the Red Force remain a solid unit with sidelined West Indies wicketkeeper batsman Denesh Ramdin, leg-spinner Imran Khan and Jamaican-born left-arm pacer Sheldon Cottrell.Kelvin Williams, the Red Force coach, thinks the teams are evenly matched, and will have all to play for given their proximity in the points table.

“It depends on how well the boys play throughout the four days. Man for man I think we match them, so it's very important for us to go out and produce,” Williams told the Observer ahead their practice session yesterday afternoon. “This game will be a very important one for both teams, especially because Jamaica just came off a win and we also came off a win. We will be missing two players and I think Jamaica will be missing a key player which is Nikita Miller. How important he was for Jamaica, we'll find out at the end of this game,” the Red Force coach declared.

Squads: Scorpions — Paul Palmer (captain), John Campbell, Trevon Griffith, Assad Fudadin, Brandon King, Fabian Allen, Aldane Thomas (wicketkeeper), Derval Green, Damion Jacobs, Reynard Leveridge, Oshane Thomas, Oraine Williams, Odean Smith. Red Force— Denesh Ramdin (captain), Jeremy Solozano, Khary Pierre, Bryan Charles, Yannic Cariah, Imran Khan, Isaiah Rajah, Amir Jangoo (wicketkeeper), Roshon Primus, Tion Webster, Sheldon Cottrell, Daniel St Clair, Ewart Nicholson.

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