Canada holds the edge in Sunnybrook clash

11 August 2004

From August 13-15, Canada take on Bermuda at Sunnybrook Park, Toronto, in the ICC Intercontinental Cup. This match is designated as first-class by the ICC and takes place over 50 years after the last first-class match in Canada (in 1951 the MCC beat Canada by an innings in Toronto). At stake in this 2004 encounter is a place in the Intercontinental Cup finals, to be played in the United Arab Emirates in November. Scotland have already booked a pace in the finals and a win for Canada will take them there also. At present the USA top the Americas table after beating Bermuda, but Canadašs win over the USA in May makes them favourites to advance ­ although the untested turf wicket at Sunnybrook may pay a major role in the match

Canada will be missing Ian Billcliff, who is unavailable for this match, and have brought in spinner Kevin Sandher and medium pacer Bhatti to bolster the bowling. Bermuda have made four changes to the squad that lost to the USA. Leg-spinner Pitcher and keeper Edness return to the team after injury, and all-rounder Tucker and pace bowler Steede are set to make their international debuts. Bermuda coach Mark Harper (brother of West Indian Test player Roger) is optimistic and believes Bermuda will improve greatly following experience gained against the USA.

The Canadian team is in good form and spirits following their triumph at the Americas Cricket Championship. Bermudan cricket has to some extent been in a decline in recent years, and they lack players who have played first-class cricket. Although Canada are missing Ian Billcliff, captain John Davison has extensive experience of the longer form of the game in Australia, and Sunil Dhaniram has 12 first-class matches under his belt in Guyana. Canada and Bermuda have met previously in one-day competition, most recently in the Americas Cricket Championship, held in Bermuda. Canada beat the hosts by 3 wickets in that match from the first ball of the final over. Canada also beat the Bermudans in the previous two Americas Cups.

The toss may be critical ­ batting first may allow the winner of the toss to avoid final innings on a wearing pitch. The wicket at Sunnybrook is untested and in the eyes of some observers is under-prepared, although the Canadian Cricket Association are confident that it will be suitable for first-class cricket. If the wicket proves to be poor, then Canada may have the bowling to take advantage of it, particularly as the pitch wears. John Davison demonstrated that he could be devastating on a poor pitch in the match against the USA where he recorded the best first-class bowling figures since Jim Lakeršs 19-90. However if the pitch plays poorly from the outset then it may act as a leveller, with batting becoming a somewhat hazardous exercise, and luck, rather than skill becoming the main factor in survival. The first hour of the match (somewhat worryingly to be played on Friday 13th of August) will be watched with great interest by all, but particularly by the CCA who have been forced to gamble on Sunnybrook, mostly because of financial inability to secure better facilities. One hopes their gamble pays off, but if not, the match may not last long.

Canada need to win to ensure their place in the finals, although a good performance in a drawn game would probably suffice. Unless weather intervenes, a draw will be unlikely, and on balance Canada holds the edge in experience and has the stronger bowling line-up. They should, on paper, win, but the Sunnybrook wicket introduces a completely unpredictable factor and Bermuda may well upset all predictions.

(Dave Liverman).