Bridgetown, Barbados, August 25 - (www.bcacricket.org) - Massy Stores Spartan and Wildey must be desperate to win their BCA Super Cup semi-finals on Sunday, August 26.
Record eight-time champions Spartan are opposing an upbeat Bayview Hospital YMPC at Beckles Road, while Wildey seek to wallop the highly touted Sagicor Life UWI at 3Ws Oval.
The 9 a.m. start is eagerly awaited.
Despite their proud record, Spartan, however, have not reached the Final of the island’s top one-day Championship since 2006 and this is only their third semi-final in 12 seasons.
Wildey, formerly known as Banks and Banks Wildey have been in the doldrums of the big stage for 37 long, long years.
Between 1975 when Barbados Fire & Commercial (later renamed Barbados Fire & General and Sagicor General) took over the sponsorship after it was played under the banner of Derrick Robins for the previous three years and was then a 40-over Tournament contested as a straight knockout, and 1981, Banks, as they were known, appeared in five finals, winning the title in 1979, which is their only piece of silverware.
But amazingly, since the turn of the century, this is only the second time they have advanced to the last four. The other was in 2007 when they lost by nine wickets to Carlton at Black Rock (now renamed Desmond Haynes Oval) after limping to 95 all out in 39 overs on the luck of the toss.
Current West Indies Twenty20 captain Carlos Brathwaite, who is now busy representing St. Kitts and Nevis Patriots in the Caribbean Premier League, was the topscorer with 42 including three fours and three sixes as an opener.
Kurt Wilkinson, better known for his batting, was the unlikely Carlton bowling hero with four for 15 off ten overs.
Carlton reached the target in only 16.5 overs as Dale Richards lashed 54 not out off 48 balls.
The record between UWI and Wildey in four Super Cup matches in the last ten years strongly favours UWI, who have triumphed three times.
Those UWI wins were all achieved at 3Ws Oval, which was also the venue for their defeat.
In 2008, they won by six wickets despite Carlos Brathwaite lashing a fine 105 off 90 balls with six fours and five sixes in a Banks total of 249 for nine off 50 overs before UWI reached a revised target of 220 off 44 overs in 43.2 overs; in 2016 by a whopping and unforgettable 302 runs when UWI amassed a record 418 for seven off 50 overs, led by Brathwaite’s cousin, Jonathan Carter’s hurricane 127 off only 88 balls including 11 fours and six sixes and then wiped out Wildey for 116 in 31 overs; and by eight wickets last season as Wildey tumbled for 78 - coincidentally again in 31 overs - and UWI romped home in only 14.2 overs.
The only joy for Wildey came in 2015 by 17 runs.
Wildey scored 192 for nine off 50 overs and after passing 100 with three wickets down, UWI collapsed, losing their last seven wickets for 63 runs in 20.2 overs to be all out for 165 in 42.3 overs.
Spartan’s last appearance in a Final 12 years ago ended in defeat by three wickets against their nemesis ICBL Empire, at Black Rock.
Empire were captained by Jason Haynes, now their coach, while Sulieman Benn was at the helm of Spartan.
Benn, a tall, left-arm spinner who has played for West Indies in all three versions of the game – Tests, One-Day and Twenty20 Internationals - and now aged 37, is the only surviving member of that 2006 Spartan team, who is expected to be in action on Sunday.
And it will be only his second Super Cup match this season - the other was against last year’s champions CounterPoint Wanderers in the quarter-finals at Dayrells Road on August 12 when Spartan brought off a thrilling two-wicket win with three balls to spare in pursuit of 281.
In a team packed with five spinners, Benn took one for 25 off seven overs after coming on as the sixth of seven bowlers.
He, like two other left-armers in Andre Marshall and Chad Williams, along with off-spinner Chaim Holder and leg-spinner Joshua Drakes, will all be tested on a small ground.
Ironically, the last year Spartan captured the title way back in 2002, YMPC were their opponents. That Final - Spartan won by 91 runs - was played at Weymouth. Dave "Yamma" Marshall, now the Spartan coach, was their proud captain then. He would want to tell his side that this is the time to go all the way. And mind you, Benn also played in that match.
Current YMPC batsman Ryan Wiggins played in that Final, too, for YMPC, who were skippered by current Barbados Pride team manager, Wendell Coppin.
And since the 2006 Final, this is only the third time Spartan have managed a place in the semi-finals. The others were in 2008 when not surprisingly, they were yet again victims of Empire – by 42 runs at The Brewery – as Empire went on to win the last of their five titles, and last season when they went under by five wickets to Crane Resort St. Catherine at Bayfield.
Funny enough, Empire did not reach the knockout stage this season for the first time in 19 seasons and St. Catherine did not get past the preliminaries either for the time in ten years.
YMPC last appeared in the Final just two years ago when they were the champions, albeit for only the second time in six Finals, while UWI have won the title three times – 2007, 2012 and 2015 - in four Finals since they first competed in 2006 on being given top division status by the BCA despite not winning the Intermediate division.
Apart from seeking to earn a place in the Final for their teams, some players will also be mindful of their statistics this season.
From a batting perspective, Leniko Boucher, the dashing UWI opener, is in line to become only the second player after the Wanderers opener Shayne Moseley to amass 500 runs for the season.
Boucher has 426.
Left-hander Moseley finished with a new Championship record of 620 runs including two hundreds and three fifties, at an average of 68.88.
Moseley and Ryan Wiggins are the only batsmen to ever score 500 runs in a Super Cup season. Wiggins, now aged 34, first achieved the feat in 2016 when he made 526 including one century and four half-centuries, at an average of 47.26.
Two other batsmen ended this season with over 400 runs. They were: Justin Greaves of Empire (483 including two centuries and three half-centuries; ave: 120.75) and Shian Brathwaite of Barbados Youth and Combermere (466 with one hundred and four fifties; ave: 51.77).
Of the bowlers, off-spinner Kemar Jabarry Smith of YMPC has been the surprise with the most wickets (20) all told.
In close contention are Smith’s team-mate, leg-spinner Mario Miller (19), the Spartan pair of Andre Marshall (17)and Chad Williams (16), Wildey left-arm fast bowler Jerome Jones (16) and UWI left-arm spinner Larry Edward (15).
Veteran left-arm spinner Derick Bishop of St. Catherine finished with 18.
UWI - Jonathan Carter (captain), Leniko Boucher, Anthony Alleyne, Nicholas Kirton, Ryan Hinds, Cameron Pennyfeather, Linton Buchanan, Jermaine Levy, Aaron Daley, Keron Cottoy, Gilon Tyson, David Carter, Larry Edward, Shaquille Williams, Shkym Haynes, Gian Benjamin.
Wildey - Carlos Maynard (captain), Zachary McCaskie, Craig St. Hill, Pedro Greaves, Shanaldo Taylor, Romario Greaves, Orion Bostic, Jerome Jones, Kyle Sargeant, Steve Pinder, Pius Emilien, Akeem Jordan, Rasheed Wharton.
YMPC - Renaldo Arthur (captain), Eric Batson, Kemar Jabarry Smith, Shane Dowrich, Kemal Smith, Shaquon Carrington, Ryan Wiggins, Neil Persaud, Mario Miller, Nkosi Ross, Garry Austin, Kevin Gittens, Mali Marshall, Shakib Kellman, Kyle Brathwaite.
Spartan - Rashidi Boucher (captain), Akeem Springer, Joshua Drakes, Marrodon Bend, Mikhail Austin, Chad Williams, Chaim Holder, Rashid Nicholls, Sulieman Benn, Jamar Nicholls, Andre Marshall, Michael Sobers, Mohammad Lokhat.