Half of their respective squads might be unavailable, but that doesn’t make the three-match warm-up series between West Indies and South Africa any less important, and both will be hoping to make a statement heading into the ICC Men’s Twenty20 (T20) World Cup.

Rovman Powell, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Nicholas Pooran, Sherfane Rutherford, Jason Holder, Andre Russell and Alzarri Joseph are out for West Indies, while Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, Tristan Stubbs, David Miller, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj and Kagiso Rabada for South Africa. Though all are not still engaged in the Indian Premier League (IPL), some, like Pooran and Hope, are being rested and others, like Rabada, are recovering from illness.

Still, the upside to the contests is that discarded players, and those out-of-form players in the squad, now have an opportunity to convince their coaches –albeit for Thursday’s first game at Sabina Park – as the ICC expects all confirmed squads on Saturday, May 25.

First ball is 2:00pm.

Brandon King, who has been charged with leading the depleted West Indies side, knows that much and, as such, is expecting players to show their worth ahead of the June 1-29 global showpiece to be held in the Caribbean and United States.

Kyle Mayers is one of those discarded players. The Barbadian scored no T20I fifties in 11 innings since touring South Africa in 2023 and was dropped thereafter, but made 243 runs in six innings at the BPL and boasts a T20 strike rate above 150 this year and above 143 from 40 matches last year. With power-hitting among the most talked-about attributes of top-order batters, this is his chance to show he still has it.

Kyle Mayers showed some semblance of form in the BPL.

From a bowling perspective, the likes of Obed McCoy, one of the highest wicket takers in T20Is this year, found no space in a squad that has Alzarri and Shamar Joseph, Russell, Holder and Shepherd. He has an opportunity to show what he can do in home conditions.

“Obviously, it is the last series leading up to the World Cup, so we're looking to implement how we want to play in the World Cup in these three games. So it's really about that and trying to finalize everybody's roles and responsibilities going into the World,” King said in a pre-game press conference at Sabina Park, on Wednesday.

“I’ve had discussions with the coaches and with the other captain [Rovman Powell] and we have specific roles for each player that we would like them to go out and perform and, as I said, we're looking to start that in this series,” he added.

Though it will be his first time leading the regional side on home soil, and the first international game at Sabina Park in a while, King said there is no added pressure.

“Personally, I don't feel any added pressure, I like to be very positive thinking towards these things. It'll be a great memory looking back when you think about it. So, obviously we want to win the games for the fans, but it's just more excitement than pressure,” King declared.

Obed McCoy one of the highest wicket takers in T20Is this year.

“We've been preparing even before this series; we're coming from a training camp as well, so we've gotten a lot of volume in terms of training, so this is just to get some match practice leading up to the World Cup. The guys that are missing are also very experienced players, we've been playing series for the past two years, so their roles I don't think would have changed much and they will fit in when they come,” he shared.

While West Indies came away 2-1 winners in the last three-match series between the two in South Africa, King is by no means expecting their opponents to be even more formidable on this occasion, as they too have much to prove.

“They're a very good team. If you look at the players that they have on paper, it is a really solid eleven that they have, so, we have to be at the top of your game. It's not a team where you can relax or anything because they also play an aggressive brand of cricket, a very positive, confident brand of cricket.

“So, I would say we're looking to exploit our home advantage in this series. The, last time we played in their conditions and we end up winning and so it would be even more positive playing at home,” King noted.

That said, King pointed out that members of the team, like the many fans around the Caribbean and around the world, are eager to see what uncapped West Indies pacer Shamar Joseph has to offer in the game’s shortest version.

The 24-year-old Guyanese rose to prominence after his heroics during the Test series against Australia earlier this year.

“We're also very excited to see what he has. You'll definitely see him in this series at some point, but we're all excited to see what he has to offer,” King ended.

It is often said that it is not how you start, but how you finish that counts. Waterhouse, by virtue of their current vein of form in the Wray and Nephew Jamaica Premier League, has embodied that saying.

In fact, to say that the Drewsland-based team is rising to the occasion when it matters most would be an understatement, as they recovered from an inconsistent run in the preliminary stage, where they placed sixth, and are now in the semi-final.

Waterhouse confirmed their spot in the final four on Monday after they downed Tivoli Gardens 2-0 in second leg quarterfinal action, for a 3-1 aggregate scoreline, at Sabina Park.

Javane Bryan (14th) and Andre Fletcher (45+6) were on target for Waterhouse, who has booked a semi-final date with reigning champions Mount Pleasant FA. First leg action is scheduled for Sunday at the same venue.

With his side taking a seven-match unbeaten run into that contest, Waterhouse’s assistant coach Damion Gordon is confident, but aware that they will be up against a Mount Pleasant team with great attributes, quality and real individual talent. Waterhouse last made a deep run in the league in the truncated 2021 season, when they lost the final to Cavalier in a penalty shootout.

“I think our chances of winning are just like any other team before the game is played. So, we just have to prepare as best as we can for Mount Pleasant, which is a very difficult team, but again, at this stage of the tournament, you just have to bring your A game and come Sunday I think the better team will win,” Gordon said.

Reflecting on the performance, he lauded the team for character and fight shown on the day.

“We are grateful, we always take a hungry step towards everything and tonight (Monday) we did that. I think we started very well; I still think that we had some more chances that we should have capitalised on, but we are grateful for the win nonetheless. Hats off to Tivoli, I think they really pressed us, and I think they forced us in terms of testing our defensive shape and fortitude which came to the fore,” Gordon noted.

The contest started in a sombre manner, as Tivoli Gardens lost young starlet Nickalia Fuller with what appeared to be a broken right leg, after he went into a tough challenge with Waterhouse’s Shamarie Dallas. The physical and psychological impact of that challenge later took effect on Dallas, who wept openly as he also left the field soon after.

Still, Waterhouse maintained their composure, and later found the lead when Bryan fired home his 16th goal of the season from close range, after sloppy play by Tivoli Gardens captain Odean Pennycooke allowed Revaldo Mitchell through on goal to get off the initial effort that was blocked.

Tivoli Gardens came into their own and tried to play their game, but were unable to make their half chances count, as Alton Lewis fired wide from inside the 18-yard box, in the 28th minute.

Nine minutes later, substitute Lennox Russell, who entered the contest for Fuller, had Tivoli’s best chance of the half, as his well-struck right-footer from an angle, was kept out by Kemar Foster at his near post.

Waterhouse regained their attacking fire at the backend of the half, and found a second in time added, when Leonardo Jibbison’s cross found an unmarked Fletcher, who made no mistakes with a well-taken left-footed finish for his 12th of the season, which put the two-time champions 2-0 up at the break.

Needing a goal to stay in the contest, Tivoli Gardens went straight to work on the resumption and almost pulled one back a minute in, but Russell’s strike was again kept out by Foster.

Waterhouse went close to a third in the 63rd minute, but Denardo Thomas’s powerfully struck effort from inside the 18-yrd box, just went over the crossbar.

From there, it was all Tivoli Gardens, as the West Kingston team launched a series of marauding attacks in a sustained spell of pressure, but they found Waterhouse defence in a defiant mood, as they braved the incursion.

Besides Waterhouse’s resolute defending, Tivoli Gardens were left down by a lack of composure in the final third at times, as Justin Dunn hit the upright in the 70th minute, while Rodico Wellington’s freekick in the 85th minute was again blocked by Foster.

Tivoli Gardens Head coach Jerome Waite cursed his team’s luck on the day, but in the same breath, expressed delight with how the season went.

“The youngster’s leg is broken, which is really sad, and I am not one to bash referees, but we all saw what happened. Besides that, we created chances throughout the second half, but faulty execution resulted in us not scoring, and we also have to give Waterhouse’s goalkeeper credit as well,” he said.

“In the end, Tivoli Gardens had an extremely outstanding season. This is not something that anybody looked forward to, so I have to give the guys credit,” Waite added.

As the famous English proverbs states “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.”

That’s the mindset of Arnett Gardens’s Head coach Xavier Gilbert, who is backing his team to not only overcome the Cavalier hurdle in the semi-final, but also to possibly go all the way in this season’s Wray and Nephew Jamaica Premier League.

Gilbert’s thoughts followed their 1-0 win over Portmore United in second-leg quarterfinal action, as Arnett Gardens wrapped up a 2-1 aggregate scoreline at Sabina Park on Monday.

Captain fantastic, Fabian Reid, was again the saviour, as he got the all-important strike in the 90th minute to break Portmore United’s heart and ensure the five-time champions remain on course for the final.

With the “Junglists” last title coming back in the 2016/17 season, Gilbert is optimistic about breaking the drought, but first they will have to get by last season’s beaten finalist, Cavalier in the semi-final, which kicks off on Sunday.

Arnett Gardens, who fell at the semi-final stage to eventual champions Mount Pleasant FA last year, lost 0-3 and drew 2-2 with Cavalier earlier this season.

“We knew it would only get tougher as we go on, and that's a given. But when the situation becomes difficult, that’s when we need to show our strength and stand up to it. So, yes, it will be another tough encounter against Cavalier, but we have to prepare mentally and physically for it, and then analyse how we're going to approach that game tactically,” Gilbert said in a post-game interview.

“But I'm happy that we got the win tonight. I thought we created some good opportunities, and we just didn't finish. We knew that it was just a matter of time, and we finally got it (the goal) in the end. I am happy for the players, I think they really deserve it, and it's a huge boost heading into, into the semi-final. They should be confident for that (semi-final) game, and we're just going to go back, recover and get ready for it,” he added.

It was a fairly decent, but goalless first half, as both teams evenly matched strides and had their fair share of chances to break the deadlock. Arnett Gardens initially looked more threatening in open play, but the best chance of the half fell to Portmore United in the 39th minute, when Alex Marshall’s glancing header sent Chevaughn Walsh through on goal, but the striker sporting the number nine jersey, couldn’t beat Eric Edwards, who left his line well to block the effort.

Prior to that, Chevany Willis’s seventh-minute freekick for Arnett Gardens, came back off the crossbar, while Keheim Dixon went on a break in the 10th minute, but was taken out by Portmore United’s custodian Benjamin Williams, who strayed well outside his area. Fortunately, the resulting freekick didn’t inflict any damage on the St Catherine team.

Portmore United started more purposeful on the resumption, and enjoyed a decent passage of play, but failed to create any meaningful chance to hurt Arnett Gardens.