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Rangers coach expects battle with Bay

Defending champions: St David’s batsmen Sammy Robinson and Fiqre Crockwell cross for a single during their 2014 Belco Cup win over Willow Cuts. The two sides meet again tomorrow in the semi-finals (Photo by Nicola Muirhead)

Southampton Rangers will again start as favourites when the 13th Belco Cup is staged this weekend, but coach Ricky Brangman insists the eight-time champions won’t take anything for granted against first opponents Bailey’s Bay.

Rangers will meet Bay in the semi-finals tomorrow at Lord’s while St David’s, last year’s champions, will play Willow Cuts at Somerset in a repeat of last year’s final.

Malachi Jones, one of the big name transfers during the off-season, will make his debut for Bailey’s Bay as he goes up against his former team.

The all-rounder first won the Belco Cup with Rangers as a 16-year-old schoolboy in 2006 when his 78 not out led Rangers to an eight-wicket win over St David’s and earned him the Man of the Match award.

Also moving to Bay were Zeko Burgess and Ricky Hoyte while Rangers gained Hasan Durham from PHC and Oronde Bascome, the former St George’s captain, who is still abroad in England. Bay have the disadvantage of not having a game last weekend as the season began with the T20 competition, though many of their players watched the two matches at Lord’s as the home team beat Willow Cuts and Flatts.

Rangers will be boosted by the return of captain Janeiro Tucker, Dion Stovell and James Celestine from international duty while Durham was also abroad, with the Bermuda Masters team in Hawaii.

“Things are looking good, players are back from away and we had hard sessions this week,” Brangman said. “I’m sure all four teams are looking forward to playing in this competition and everybody is geared up and ready to go.

“Bailey’s Bay have always been a strong team and now with the players they picked up they’ve gotten even stronger, but like I always say the game is played on the field. I’m hoping my team goes out on the field on Saturday and performs well, and I’m sure Irving Romaine [Bay coach] is looking for his team to do the same thing. I’m expecting a real battle this weekend.”

Rangers have been the most successful team in the tournament since it became the Belco Cup in 2003, having previously reached just one final in the competition when it was the Premier Cup and then the Camel Cup from 1987 to 2002.

“It doesn’t carry extra weight but motivates us to keep winning it,” Brangman said of the team’s record in the competition.

Rangers’ bowling strength will be their spin attack where Durham will support other left armers Derek Brangman and Vernon Eve and off-break bowler Stovell.

“We’re ready to go, it’s always easier when you have a lot of players to pick from,” said the coach.

In the absence of the senior players, Alex Dore led the batting in the T20 final against Willow Cuts with 55 not out from 23 deliveries and Brangman expects the youngster to play a key role for the team this summer.

Willow Cuts, meanwhile, should have trio Deunte Darrell, Kavon Fubler and Sheroy Fubler back after missing the match against St David’s. Opener Fiqre Crockwell is already the inform batsman for the champions following his 74 and 80 against Cuts and Flatts, hitting a total of 20 fours and two sixes in his two knocks.

St David’s will have captain OJ Pitcher and Justin Pitcher back from national duty. St David’s have reached the last three finals, losing to Bay in 2012 and Rangers the following year before beating Willow Cuts by seven wickets last year to win their first Belco Cup title.