Playing for pride
Game five of the Stanford 20/20 Tournament has created so much buzz in Antigua, St Kitts and Nevis and region-wide one could be excused for thinking that it is a regional final of some sort.
The contest is not a final, not even a semi-final, nowhere even close. It is what has been described as the ultimate grudge match. A bitter rivalry going back decades comes to a head at 7pm on Friday night. It is St Kitts versus Nevis. It is the first match of the tournament for each team and the formula is simple, win and move on, lose and go home.
St Kitts and Nevis is the only country that has fielded two teams in the tournament, simply because it is traditional for them to play as separate teams in the Leeward Islands tournament.
The word on the street in Antigua is that the locals, who have turned out in droves for the first three games, would be behind Nevis. The Antigua-St Kitts rivalry is so intense that the locals will be throwing their support behind the Nevisians.
In addition to local support for Nevis, they also have the advantage going into the key encounter, with a more balanced unit and with heavy artillery in the batting department.
While Nevis in many ways is seen as the lesser part of the federation, in cricketing terms they are the superior side.
Captain Stuart Williams and West Indies batsman Runako Morton names alone set the sides apart. Williams, the experienced and aggressive right hander will be a dangerous customer for any bowling attack let alone one without a standout name like the Kittian combination.
His experience will be invaluable both at this and the international level where he has played 31 Tests matches and 57 ODIs. That Williams, who retired from the regional game recently stopped just short of 10,000 first class runs speaks bulging volumes of his quality and class as a dominant regional batsman, genuinely feared by bowlers region-wide.
Runako Morton, who will soon be off to England with the West Indies A Team too brings power and resistance to the Nevis batting. Another forthright right hander Morton should relish sending the ball flying in this power hitting form of the game. Add the all round skill of Tonito Willett, restrictive left arm spin of Warrington Phillip and the pace of John Maynard it will be a tall task for St Kitts to prevail.
But they do not go into the game without hope. Steve Liburd, their captain can get the ball away neatly and regularly. Shane Jeffers too will be looking to stamp his name in the minds of the regional public after indifferent results at the first class level. Junie Mitchum is a virtual regular on Leeward Islands teams but is a little on the slower side of run scoring though a general busy body in the field which should lift the spirit of the team as they try to contain the Nevisian batsmen.
At the end of the day though, pride is what is really at stake. And when pride is at stake ordinary men can perform extraordinarily with consummate ease. If St Kitts can pick up the big name batters early and not buckle mentally they can pull off the unexpected.
Nevis just needs to play positively and not let the bright lights get in their eyes and they should be home in a canter.
And the thrilling tale does not end there. Whoever wins will have to face Antigua in the quarterfinals! What a showdown that one will be.