ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Tournament favourites Barbados Pride will chase their third final in four years while hosts Leeward Islands Hurricanes will focus their energies on ending their recent lean run, when they meet in the second semi-final of the Regional Super50 Thursday.
Both sides enter the day/night contest at Coolidge Cricket Ground with differing motivation. Pride, last year’s losing finalists, have been outstanding in the tournament with just a single loss and victory will take them one step closer to fulfilling the high expectations surrounding them.
Hurricanes in contrast entered the tournament with little or no pressure but have surpassed expectations to qualify for the knockout round, and now eye the chance to reach their first final since they won the competition back in 2011 and shared the title ironically with Barbados.
Head coach Reginald Benjamin said success in the tournament would be a huge boost not just for the team but for the sub-region as a whole.
“Winning the tournament would be good not only for the Leeward Islands team itself, but for the Leeward Islands people,” he said.
“For a long time they have been suffering with sub-standard teams and to reach this far is an accomplishment but to win it would be something we could be really proud of.”
Hurricanes finished second in Group A hosted here in Antigua, losing only twice – on both occasions to group winners and reigning champions Trinidad and Tobago Red Force.
However, they put enough of their talent on display to show they will be a force to be reckoned with, and with Pride starting as favourites, Benjamin said his side liked the label of underdogs.
“People underestimate us and even me personally, I like when people underestimate me, that’s when I get the best of me,” he explained.
“That’s the same thing I try and teach my team [that] when people underestimate you that’s when you rise to that highest position or that highest expectation without them noticing.”
Benjamin warned, however, that he did not see playing at home as an advantage as Pride were a massively experienced side and would easily adjust.
“I don’t want anyone to think because we played most of our games at that ground [Coolidge], that it’s an advantage,” he contended.
“Barbados is a well professional team. To be honest, you can label it as a West Indies B team to a certain extent and these guys have experience so we have to go and make sure we stay within game plan and be patient with whatever we do.”
Hurricanes will look to their captain Kieran Powell who has been the leading batsmen in the tournament with 510 runs, including three hundreds and two half-centuries.
Rookie West Indies speedster Alzarri Joseph has been among the best bowlers with 16 wickets and will spearhead the attack.
Pride will, however, enter the game full of confidence after dominating Group B at home, winning seven of their eight games.
They boast 10 West Indies players in their starting XI and will feel they have resources to dispose of Hurricanes, a view expressed by head coach Emmerson Trotman.
“All the teams are pretty good sides so we are not wary of too many things, we’ve just got to execute nicely and the guys know each other very well,” Trotman pointed out.
“The guys have planned well, they are focused on the job they have to do so I think it will be very, very difficult to beat Barbados.”
He added: “Those guys play for West Indies and they understand how to go about their jobs and at home they just put it together. It’s a very, very good unit.
“It’s important to keep the boys together, keep them focused, and that’s one of the things they have done well – unite well – and they just look after each other well.”
At the top of the order, Pride boasts Test opener Kraigg Brathwaite who has already scored over 400 runs, and the likes of Shai Hope, Roston Chase, Jonathan Carter and Shane Dowrich follow in the middle order.
Then, off-spinner Ashely Nurse, with a tournament-leading 22 wickets, and captain and seamer Jason Holder with 15 wickets, have been outstanding with the ball.
Trotman said he expected his side to carry their form into the semi-final, regardless of the new conditions they will encounter.
“They are planning and preparing very well so I’m looking forward to this part of the competition,” he said.
“I’m full of confidence but not too overconfident of course. The boys are professionals, they know their jobs, they know what they have to do and they just have to execute well.”
He continued: “They are professionals and they have to adjust and adjust well and adjust quickly. They’ve played down here before so they’re no strangers to down here, so they know how down here plays so they just have to adjust nicely.”
HURRICANES – Kieran Powell (captain), Nkrumah Bonner, Jason Campbell, Rahkeem Cornwall, Jahmar Hamilton, Montcin Hodge, Akeal Hosein, Chesney Hughes, Alzarri Joseph, Jermaine Otto, Orlando Peters, Marlon Samuels, Gavin Tonge.
PRIDE – Jason Holder (captain), Shamarh Brooks, Sulieman Benn, Carlos Brathwaite, Kraigg Brathwaite, Jonathan Carter, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich, Shai Hope, Ashley Nurse, Kemar Roach, Kevin Stoute, Jomel Warrican.