Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

 West Indies have enjoyed somewhat of a storming start to their ICC Men’s T20 World Cup campaign, but it’s safe to say those victories over minnows Papua New Guinea and Uganda were always expected.

Though a bit shaky in a five-wicket win over Papua New Guinea in their Group C opener, West Indies backed that victory up with a convincing 134-run beating of newcomers Uganda. However, the Caribbean side will be hopeful of a better second half to the group stages, as they now have New Zealand to contend with, and Afghanistan to follow.

With four points already to their credit and New Zealand yet to get on the board, the Darren Sammy-coached West Indies is targeting another win, which would guarantee them a spot in the Super Eight, and basically eliminate the Black Caps.

A record crowd is anticipated for the encounter, scheduled to play under lights at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy, in Trinidad and Tobago, on Wednesday.

While acknowledging that it will be an exciting challenge, West Indies captain Rovman Powell believes it is also an opportunity for his team to showcase the class and form that they have enjoyed over the past 15 months.

During that time, the now number-four ranked West Indies registered 2-1, 3-2 and 3-2 series wins over South Africa, India and England respectively, before losing 1-2 to Australia. Prior to the World Cup they swept South Africa 3-0 at Sabina Park.

"We are pretty confident; the boys been playing some very good cricket, and we know New Zealand will pose different challenge from our first two opponents. But having said that, once we just focus on ourselves and play good cricket, we should be okay,” Powell told journalists at a pre-game press conference on Tuesday.

"If you should look on the last year, the last twelve or 14 months, West Indies have played very good T20 cricket. So it's just a continuation of us doing that, even though it's a World Cup, the guys have done a lot of hard work coming into this World Cup, so hopefully we can show that hard work. It's two of the more traditional nations, Afghanistan and New Zealand, but I think once we focus on ourselves, we should be okay,” he added.

Given that New Zealand succumbed to a heavy 84-run defeat to Afghanistan, in a contest where they were bowled out for 75 runs, Powell said it signals some semblance of vulnerability in the opponents’ form and, as such, he and his team are looking to capitalise.

"If there's a good time to play New Zealand, I think it's definitely now. They're a little bit undercooked and the pressure is really on them because this game decides whether they go on or not. But, we're not focusing on New Zealand, we're focusing on what we have to do, and once we do what we have to do, then that will take care of itself,” Powell noted.

That said, the Jamaican once again declared their intentions to possibly secure an unprecedented third T20 World Cup title. West Indies won the 2012 and 2016 tournaments in Sri Lanka and India, and Powell is optimistic that they can now secure a title home soil, a feat he said would mean more to cricket in the region that just one more trophy.

“When you look on the benefits of playing a World Cup at home for West Indies cricket, it's an enormous benefit. If we should go on and win the World Cup, it would make us the first team to win a T20 World Cup at home. From a financial standpoint, it (hosting) boosts West Indies cricket economy, and is beneficial for so much different islands to be getting international cricket of such good standards, so that in itself is a beneficial factor,” Powell reasoned.

“For us as players, it's an opportunity for us to cement our space in West Indies cricket folklore, and winning a World Cup on home soil, not just myself as captain, but all the guys, will be remembered for such achievement.

"But those expectations are on the back of us playing good T20 cricket, which has resulted in us being ranked number four in the world now, and it's for us to continue to manage those expectations. I think the guys have done that, we are at home, so obviously expectations and pressure is always there, but it's just for us to keep on playing good cricket and keep on entertaining the fans,” he ended. 

A 16th minute strike by Shamar Nicholson proved the difference as Jamaica's senior Reggae Boyz edged Dominican Republic 1-0 to open their Concacaf World Cup qualifying account on a positive note at the National Stadium on Thursday.

Nicholson’s strike, his 17th international goal and third in World Cup qualifiers, highlighted an unsatisfactory evening for Heimir Hallgrimsson’s side, as the defence was at times vulnerable, while the wasteful attacking front was marred by a lack of composure and poor decision-making in the final third. This was much to the disappointment of the sizeable crowd which surprisingly turned out despite the early kickoff and rainfall.

Still, for Hallgrimsson, the most important outcome was securing the three points, which propelled the Boyz to second in Group E on three points, same as leaders Guatemala, who hammered Dominica 6-0 in their opening clash on Wednesday.

“We should have finished it off, but when you are winning 1-0, it's always uncomfortable because then it only needs a corner or a freekick and the ball goes in. So you never kind of feel relaxed, but we should have killed the game off with the chances we got. Apart from that, it (our performance) was below par, and we can do much better than we did today,” Hallgrimsson said in a post-game interview.

“But given a lot of these players are coming back from not playing, it was kind of given that some of them would not be ready for a competitive match right away. We can for sure improve from this performance, but the most important thing is that we got the win and we kept a clean sheet,” he added.

After a cagey start by both teams, the Jamaicans eventually showed some attacking intent in the 12th minute through the fleet-footed Renaldo Cephas, who utilised his pace to good effect to breach Dominican Republic's defence, but he couldn't get on target at that point.

Dominican Republic tried to play their game, through steady and penetrative build ups, and it was one of those attempts to open up in attack that allowed the Jamaicans to break the deadlock on the counter. This, as Cephas won possession on the break and left the last defender in his