On paper, on form and based on the personnel Jamaica look favourites against Guyana, who had to scramble to a last-ball finish on Friday night against the Windward Islands. Incidentally, Guyana, who won the tournament in 2010, showed the same desperation in their first match, when they skipped past Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) by two wickets, scoring the winning run off the final delivery.
In contrast Jamaica, apart from just one defeat in the beginning against Barbados, notched up three victories and a tie, finishing the preliminary rounds on a dominant note with a resounding victory against CCC. Chris Gayle, playing his first match of the tournament, ruthlessly exploited the inexperienced bowling, while racing to the tournament's fastest fifty in 26 balls, in addition to hitting a record nine sixes. Gayle thus filled the void in the batting as no batsman had scored a fifty yet for Jamaica.
Importantly, Gayle carries that aura of a match-winner regardless of his form and Guyana, in their current state, would obviously would be wary. It is not just Gayle, who is bound to occupy Guyana's minds tomorrow. The Jamaican left-arm seamer Krishmar Santokie has been aggressive with the new ball while simultaneously playing on the batsman's mind with his clever change of pace. Though he has just eight wickets, the numbers only betray his dominance over the batsmen.
Unfortunately for Guyana, not one player has shown consistent form. Chanderpaul scored a half-century, but he picked an injury on Friday. Ramnaresh Sarwan has been disappointing, scoring just 37 runs in six matches. The allrounder Christopher Barnwell has been the most consistent, whose spirited performances with both bat and ball have played a big hand in pushing Guyana into the playoffs.
(most recent first, completed matches only)
Jamaica: WWTWL Guyana WWLLW
In the spotlight
Chris Gayle will walk into the beautiful Beausejour Stadium for the second successive evening, knowing he will have to once again provide the momentum to the Jamaican batting and remain its mainstay. Recent dip in form aside, one big facet of Gayle's game that has changed in the last couple of years is that he wants to stay long at the crease. So often you will now see him hanging around tapping the ball early on harmlessly before unraveling those massive arms and the sending the ball deep into the stands. Gayle has understood his responsibility is not just to be explosive, but also play the anchor. With the Australia tour round the corner, Gayle will be hungry for runs and dominance.
Devendra Bishoo was not so long ago the ICC's Emerging Player of the Year (2011). He was even the Man-of-the-Series in the 2010 edition of the Caribbean T20 when Guyana won. But last year, he lost his spot in the West Indies team and is now on the fringes. On Saturday he could be in a face-off with Gayle and will need to stand up to the task.
With a final berth at stake Jamaica might be keen to get back their most economical bowler, the legspinner Odean Brown ahead of the offspinner Yannick Elliott.
Jamaica (probable): 1 Chris Gayle, 2 David Bernard, 3 Tamar Lambert (capt), 4 Nkrumah Bonner, 5 Danza Hyatt, 6 Andre Russell, 7 Aldane Thomas (wk), 8 Nikita Miller, 9 Krishmar Santokie, 10 Sheldon Cotterrell, 11 Odean Brown/Yannick Elliott
Chanderpaul pulled a leg muscle while batting against Windward Islands and doubts will persist about his selection till the toss.
Guyana (probable): 1 Derwin Christian (wk), 2 Shivnarine Chanderpaul/Trevon Griffith, 3 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 4 Narsingh Deonarine, 5 Leon Johnson, 6 Christopher Barnwell, 7 Royston Crandon, 8 Steven Jacobs, 9 Devendra Bishoo, 10 Veerasammy Permaul (capt), 11 Ronsford Beaton
Stats and trivia
Gayle's nine sixes against CCC were the most by a batsman in an innings.
The 75-run stand between Gayle and David Bernard was the best partnership for the opening wicket this edition.
Gayle has scored the fastest fifty, in 26 balls.
In the eight matches played at Gros Islet in this edition, the team batting first has won twice.
"Before we came to St Lucia we knew that if we want to go to the final we will have to play for three consecutive days. This is just the first step. Tomorrow is the semi-finals and we would like to put on the same display as we did tonight." Tamar Lambert, Jamaica captain, prepares for the playoff contest
"We need to do something special and win these games convincingly." Steven Jacobs, Guyana offspinner, on his team's habit to make a mess of easy wins.