By Sean Devers
Played before virtually empty stands at the Guyana National Stadium, Providence the opening round of this year’s Regional Under-19 three-day cricket tournament got going yesterday with Guyana taking the first day advantage in their contest against the Leeward Islands.
On a low and slow track in bright sunshine the hosts, hunting a 13th title at this level and seventh on home soil, won the toss and opted to invite the Islanders, who last won the title when it was played in Guyana in 1989 & 2001, to field first.
Led by a workman-like 65 from Tagenarine Chanderpaul and an attractive 62 from Askay Homraj, the Guyanese reached 270 all out despite an impressive spell of off-spin bowling from the tournament’s most experienced bowler Shaquille Martina who grabbed 5-86 from 31 overs. He got support from left-arm spinner Therone Bussue who had 2-48.
By the close the Leewards were 21-1with the left-handed Ross Powell from Nevis on 14 and Martina yet to score. The Leewards, who lost Dion Weste (1) to off-spinner Sharaz Ramcharran with the score on 10, need another 250 runs for first innings honours with nine wickets in hand. Powell, the nephew of Kieron Powell, has so far hit two fours in his innings.
Earlier, the left-handed pair of West Indies Under-19 openers Shemron Hetymer and Chanderpaul put together 20 on the lush green outfield before Hetymer (5), with no movement of his feet, edged a wild swipe to third slip where Martina, whose mother is Guyanese, held the catch as Skipper Jeremiah Louis made the breakthrough.
Skipper Brian Sattaur (10), who also played last year, soon edged off-spinner Martina to slip to leave Guyana, who last won a Regional three-day in St Kitts in 2007, at 42-2.
It should have been 43-3 when the keeper dropped Balchand Baldeo before he had scored, off left-arm quickie Colin Archibald. Baldeo rubbed salt into the wound with a classical cover driven boundary off Archibald to get off the mark.
Baldeo joined Chanderpaul, whose only three-day youth hundred was made against the Leewards last year and together they carried Guyana to Lunch at 74-2 with Baldeo, who sweetly drove left-arm spinner Therone Bussue down the ground for four, on 18 and Chanderpaul, who favored the cut in his watchful innings, unbeaten on 25.
After the interval Baldeo, who hit two fours in his 74-minute 20, was brilliantly taken at slip by Joseph at 74-3 to give 18-year-old Martina, who made his debut as a 14-year-old in St Lucia in 2010, his second wicket.
Chanderpaul struck Bussue for a glorious boundary before hitting the spinner for the first six of match next ball to post the Guyana 100. However, eight runs later Ramcharran (10) played around an arm-ball and was bowled by Martina, the only surviving player from the 2011 side which played in the last tournament hosted by Guyana.
Homraj joined the well entrenched Chanderpaul who made his debut at this level against the Leewards in 2012. The pair took the score to 133 before Chanderpaul, who made an unbeaten 104 when these two teams met in St Kitts last year, played a lofted drive to mid-off to give Martina, who operated with clever variations, his fourth wicket.
Chanderpaul, with nine First-Class matches to his name batted for 197 minutes, faced 137 balls, reached the boundary eight times and cleared it once. The son of prolific Test batsman Shiv Chanderpaul fell just when he began to look ominous and his demise brought Kemo Paul to the crease.
Paul entertained the handful of spectators with an attractive array of shots but his 17 ball 26, laced with six fours was more in T20 mode and the Essequibian was soon removed by Joseph after he had added 40 with the elegant Homraj for the sixth wicket to leave the Guyanese on 173-6 and by Tea the score had progressed to 205-6 on a day in which no other team reached 200.
At Tea Homraj was on 41 and Kemol Savory on seven. After the break, Savory (8) was caught and bowled by Bussue as Guyana slipped to 207-7 but the free flowing Homraj, who registered a classy century against the Windwards last year, was still there.
Homraj then hit a return catch to Bussue after facing 67 balls and batting for 112 minutes with five fours. He departed with the score 248-8. It was soon 254-9 when Daimon Waldron (2) was also caught and bowled by Martina who began his last year at this level with a five-wicket haul.
Leg spinner Steven Sankar (32*) and pacer Keno Morris frustrated the bowlers with a 29-minute last wicket stand before Morris (9) was removed by Archibald, 22 minutes before the scheduled 17:00hrs close.
Play on the second day today is scheduled to commence at 10:00hrs and admission is free.