DAVID Furlonge, head coach of TT Red Force, blamed the inability to construct solid opening partnerships as his team’s biggest challenge, and one of the primary reasons for their ongoing struggles in the 2023 West Indies Championship.
This comes after TT succumbed to a seven-wicket defeat against Barbados Pride at Queen’s Park Oval, St Clair, on Saturday.
Needing just 66 runs for victory on the final day, chasing a second innings target of 118, in-form Bajan opening batsman Zahary McCaskie led the charge with his unbeaten knock of 55 to guide the visitors home.
Barbados resumed the fourth and final day’s play on 52/2, with McCaskie and Jomel Warrican in the middle. The pair carried them to 72 when Bryan Charles had Warrican bowled for 12 runs.
Incoming batsman Jonathan Drakes joined McCaskie at the crease and the duo made light work of the remaining 46 runs. Mc Caskie finished as their top scorer while TT’s Charles (3/29) was the pick of the bowlers.
With just one match remaining against Jamaica Scorpions at Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba on Wednesday, the Red Force remain in fifth place on the standings with a win-record of two draws and two losses.
They’re out of the title race but still have a slim chance of finishing in the top three.
Furlonge was “disappointed” and was again critical of his batsmen, who posted 203 in the first innings and a shabby 185 in the second.
He did not place sole blame on his opening pair used against Barbados, since this was Vikash Mohan’s first official game for TT and Jangoo’s debut as a TT opening batsman in this format.
In both innings, the pair had their opening partnership broken on 10 and three runs respectively.
Against Guyana last week, TT’s openers Jeremy Solozano and Keagan Simmons were separated with 38 runs on the board in the first innings and three, in the second.
Versus the Leewards, Simmons and ‘Solo’ got to seven before the former was dismissed. In the second innings, number three batsman and skipper Darren Bravo switched positions with Solozano, but Simmons departed for just one run while Bravo went on to notch his second ton of the match.
In their opening match against Windwards, Solozano and Khary Pierre opened but the latter was removed with just six runs scored by the pair.
On his team’s collapse, Furlonge said, “The batting is the only area we can pin point. You can’t score 200 and 180-odd and expect to do well. We’ve played four matches so far and we have failed to get an opening partnership of any note in those four matches.
“So you have your number three and four batsmen coming in to bat early and that’s one of the main reasons, in terms of, we haven’t gotten that start that we were looking forward to.
“Opening is a specialist position. It’s not like a little club team where you have a guy just getting the ball old for the spinners to come on.
“This is where you’re facing tough bowlers who are moving around the ball. The guys just need to get their feet in better positions. We need to build as openers.
“You find openers tend to leave balls a lot, especially outside the off-stump. Our openers of recent have been playing that ball outside there and getting caught in the slips.”
For the Barbados match, Central Sports Club opening batsman Kamil Pooran received his maiden TT Red Force call-up. His selection was based on a double century and century scored in the domestic league this season.
However, he was picked for the Furlonge’s starting XI against the Pride. The coach defended his decision.
“We looked at Jangoo, who is averaging 50. He has opened before for Leeward Islands, when he wasn’t wicket-keeping (for them). Jangoo was asked to do the role of opening batsman and he agreed.
“We still have young Pooran in the 13-man team. It is just my opinion he may get a look-in now (against Jamaica) and an opportunity. If he does, I hope he grabs it with both hands. He’s been around the team for four days so he knows what we expect. Hopefully he has matured a little bit in those four days.”
Looking ahead at their final fixture, Furlonge confirmed fast bowler Shannon Gabriel has made himself available for selection and should feature against the Scorpions.
“Shannon Gabriel is now available so we’ll look at a change there. Mohan just played his first game of the tournament so it will be harsh to just drop him like that.
“You have Bravo batting at three and Jason Mohammed at four, two senior batsmen who have been batting well. Jyd, who only played his sixth game for TT, is at five. It’s the last game of the season and we need to give him a little experience.
“Da Silva at six and Webster, an all-rounder- at seven, followed by the spinners and fast bowlers. I don’t see much changes (to the team). It would be a knee-jerk reaction going to change four and five players at a time.”