Barbados' cricket selectors faced their sternest test of the season last night.
They met at Kensington Oval to pick a squad for the final preliminary match of the Carib Beer Series against West Indies "B" starting Friday at Kensington Oval.
The selectors' dilemma stemmed from finding places for three West Indies players - Vasbert Drakes, Pedro Collins and Corey Collymore - following their return to the Caribbean after World Cup duties in South Africa.
The cream of the national team - especially the bowlers - which just won the Cup segment of the competition, have performed commendably for six matches and it would be a tough blow if some of them were omitted.
It is unthinkable to play as many as five specialist fast bowlers, and once the West Indies trio is available, it means that either Ian Bradshaw or Tino Best will have to watch from the sidelines this weekend.
Both have impressive credentials this season.
The 21-year-old Best, arguably the fastest bowler on show this season, is the competition's leading wicket-taker with 28 scalps at 16.17 apiece and must be considered a genuine contender for an international call-up.
Left-armer Bradshaw, 28, has bowled well all season, and his 25 wickets (ave. 20.08) place him joint fourth in the competition. His solid left-handed batting that has brought him a half-century in the lower order adds to his value.
It is a difficult call for the selectors.
The one player certain to be dropped from the eleven that played in the last match against the Leeward Islands is Randy Thomas, the BCL captain who made 17 and one on his debut at No. 3.
Dwayne Smith, the promising 20-year-old, could also give way. For all his potential, Smith failed to score a half-century in any of his nine innings for an aggregate of 201 runs (ave. 28.71).
If both Thomas and Smith are omitted, it means that captain Courtney Browne might have to move up to No. 5, an indication that the balance of the line-up will have a bias slightly towards bowling.
If Smith is retained in the eleven, then one of the slow bowlers will miss out.
Tall left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn is level with Bradshaw on 25 wickets and surely deserves another chance.
So does Ryan Hurley. On his return to the Barbados team for the first time since 2000, the under-bowled Hurley has not done much with the ball, but has played two vital innings - one that produced a century in the opening match and the other a half-century last weekend.
There has been some talk about resting a few of the leading players for the match against bottom-of-the-table West Indies "B" before fielding the strongest possible team for the semifinals of the International Challenge. That seems unlikely, however.
The likely 13: Courtney Browne (captain), Philo Wallace, Sherwin Campbell, Ryan Hinds, Floyd Reifer, Dwayne Smith, Ryan Hurley, Vasbert Drakes, Ian Bradshaw, Sulieman Benn, Pedro Collins, Corey Collymore, Tino Best