When the Carib Beer Series began over six weeks ago, Trinidad and Tobago faced off against Barbados in Barbados, battling for their first points of the season. Today the teams now meet in what appears a battle royal in this five-day final to determine the top competitors in the Carib Beer Challenge, the last encounter of a truncated season, at Guaracara Park in Pointe-a-Pierre, Trinidad.
In the history of the regional competition, the teams have shared a spirited rivalry, and each will feel they have an advantage today. Last year, T&T took top honours against Barbados, to win their first Challenge Cup, defeating them at the same venue by 125 runs. The home team had, in the 2006 season, won away to Barbados to snatch the Carib Beer Series title by the narrowest of margins.
Barbados have just as strong a claim, having reversed the result against T&T in the first match this season. They went on to win three of their other four encounters to top the group, including a tough encounter against Guyana, which they won despite losing first-innings points. T&T finished second, after a rained-out draw against Guyana. They then rallied to beat Jamaica, knocking off a target of 320 for an unlikely six-wicket win.
Both teams possess talented batting line-ups, penetrative bowling, and sufficient motivation. To add spice to the mix, the West Indies duo of Brian Lara and allrounder Dwayne Bravo are in T&T's final 16 for the match. Lara and Bravo or not, there is little doubt in the mind of T&T coach David Williams who the victors of final will be, given their recent record, and their history at home.
"My team is going to triumph against Barbados...Everything is in our favour," Williams told the Express. Williams, also a former West Indies wicketkeeper, was confident that the team wasn't complacent, after winning the KFC Cup few days back.
"We spoke about that at length. We have won ten games straight now. But we spoke about this even when we had won six, seven games...I don't see complacency being a factor right now, this is the grand finale."
Livingston Coppin, the Barbados manager, though adopted a more cautious, yet confident approach. He acknowledged that T&T are a tough team to beat at home. But he said that even with Lara and Bravo in the home team's line-up, his side can rise to the challenge, and win the tournament.
"Lara in any team is a handful," he said. "Lara is the best batsman in the world. It is a challenge. But we have been bowling well all season, and despite Lara playing, we still expect to do well enough."
But Williams begs to differ. "At the moment, we (T&T) have the upper hand. It's just a matter again of continuing the good record we have against them," he said.
Trinidad & Tobago: Daren Ganga (capt), Lendl Simmons, Sherwin Ganga, Adrian Barath, Jason Mohammed, Brian Lara, Dwayne Bravo, Sanjiv Gooljar, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Richard Kelly, Dave Mohammed, Ravi Rampaul, Amit Jaggernauth, Rayad Emrit, Gibran Mohammed, Kieron Pollard
Manager - Omar Khan, Coach - David Williams, Trainer - Gerard Garcia
Barbados: Ryan Hinds (capt), Dale Richards, Wayne Blackman, Dwayne Smith, Floyd Reifer, Alcindo Holder, Shemarh Brooks, Kevin Stoute, Patrick Browne, Tino Best, Ryan Austin, Pedro Collins, Fidel Edwards, Corey Collymore