Trinidad and Tobago Red Force coach Mervyn Dillon praised the centuries of skipper Yannick Ottley and middle-order batsman Jason Mohammed against the Windward Islands Volcanoes last week but urged his players to stay focussed with much stiffer opposition to come in the fifth round of the West Indies four-day Championship.
The Red Force will come up against leaders Barbados Pride at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown in round five starting today, and Dillon said the fixture will be crucial in the context of the tournament.
The Red Force, are currently third on the standings and the coach feels his team will have to be close to perfect in all aspects of the game if they are to come out on top against the current leaders.
The Pride are at the head of the pack with 65.2 points while the Jaguars are second on 49 and the Red Force are third on 41.6.
Speaking to the Express on Monday, Dillon said his team is expecting a tough match but he is confident his charges are ready for the challenge.
He also told TV6: “Barbados has always played a very brave and confident type of cricket. I think for us it is to make sure that we go out there with the confidence and we show that throughout the four days, because if you allow them to get on top of you they can be team that will really push you hard. So it’s for us to keep punching back, to be consistent in whatever we do, take our chances and for our bowlers to continue to push and bowl the areas that we talk about in the meetings against the different players.”
He added: “Barbados have been playing some really good cricket so a good result in this game will be very important for us. We understand the importance of this fixture going forward in the tournament, so we are really looking forward to it.”
Reflecting on the rain-affected match against the Volcanoes when the Red Force were sent in to bat and piled up 373 for nine declared with Ottley scoring 113 and Mohammed hitting 119 in a 225-run stand for the third wicket, Dillon said: “It was a pretty good game and you saw the batsmen dominated on both sides.”
“I thought the captain Ottley was exceptional coming in and stepping up and batting at number three and scoring a hundred after we decided to go with the extra fast bowler,” Dillon said.
“Stepping up and scoring his maiden first-class hundred, I think enough can’t be said about his innings. To take up the challenge to bat at number three, I have to give him real credit for that,” the Red Force coach added.
And commenting on Mohammed, Dillon said:“For me, Jason is showing why he deserves another chance at the top. He continues to play well from the Super50 and coming into this tournament and coming off an injury as well. He is showing the experience he has gathered over the years.”
However, while the Red Force piled 373 in the end, Dillon noted that the innings had some hiccups.
He noted that from 290 for two, the team collapsed to 373 for nine with Yannic Cariah unable to bat due to illness.
“Like I said there was a bit of a collapse, which was a bit of a concern for me after that partnership, but having said that, we are quite confident going into the Barbados game,” said Dillon.
Meanwhile, chairman of selectors Tony Gray also praised the efforts of Ottley and Mohammed in Dominica and veteran leg-spinner Imran Khan at home.
Khan, who was sidelined with a shoulder injury, returned to action when the domestic club competition bowled off last weekend. He grabbed seven wickets and scored a century against his old team, Alescon Comets.
“It is nice to see Ottley scoring his first regional century as soon as he has been given the captaincy but we knew that he had great all-round ability. It was also nice to see Jason Mohammed getting a century as well. He batted sensibly and he understood the important role he has to play in this team,” said Gray.
“It was a brilliant performance from the captain. He got the captaincy and that could be stressful but he responded well. He has always been an intelligent cricketer. He captained the T&T Under-19s in 2010 and he also captained the Red Force team a few years ago. We always knew he had that astuteness and intelligence and now he has shown that he has the confidence as well, Gray added.
Asked about Khan, who missed the first five matches of the first-class season with a shoulder injury, Gray said: “It was a great al-round performance from Khan and it is good to see that from him...that is what we wanted to see in a match situation. It is nice to see him taking wickets and getting back to fitness,” Gray added.
RED FORCE (from): Yannick Ottley (Captain), Yannic Cariah, Bryan Charles, Joshua Da Silva, Terrance Hinds, Akeal Hosein, Kissoondath Magram, Jason Mohammed, Uthman Muhammad, Denesh Ramdin, Keagan Simmons, Jeremy Solozano, Daniel St Clair.
PRIDE (from): Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Camarie Boyce, Shamarh Brooks, Shane Dowrich, Dominic Drakes, Justin Greaves, Keon Harding, Chemar Holder, Kyle Mayers, Shayne Moseley, Ashley Nurse, Kemar Roach, Kevin Stoute.