WI LOOK FOR 5 STRAIGHT
...with 1st Test against Zimbabwe
West Indies will look to call the shots and continue their dominance over Zimbabwe when the two teams meet in the opening contest of the two-match Test Series today at Kensington Oval. First ball is 10 am.
A victory over the visitors would make it five Test wins in a row for West Indies following last year's triumphs over New Zealand in the Caribbean and overseas over Bangladesh.
West Indies beat New Zealand by nine wickets at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground in Antigua last July and a week later won by five wickets at Sabina Park in Jamaica. Last November, they beat Bangladesh by 77 runs in Dhaka and then had an easy 10-wicket victory in Khulna.
The last time the Windies won five Tests in a row was back in the late 1980s, when Vivian Richards was the captain, leading the side to comprehensive series victories in England and Australia.
The present run has been aided by a quirk of scheduling that has pitted them against some relatively lightweight opposition. But presented with an opportunity to enhance the Caribbean team's poor Test record over the last 17 years, captain Darren Sammy will be keen for his team to maintain their stranglehold over the visitors.
"We're ready...our preparations have been spot on and we believe we will get the upper hand over Zimbabwe. We have been very professional and disciplined in all we have done so far. We will look to continue the winning ways we had in the One-Day and T20 series," Sammy said.
West Indies completed a 3-0 clean sweep in the three One-Day Internationals at the Grenada National Stadium and then powered to a 2-0 win in the Twenty20s at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground.
"The guys are coming in from playing four-day cricket so everyone should be settled and ready to take on the Zimbabweans. Kemar (Roach) and Marlon (Samuels) did not play in the last round of the Regional Four-Day tournament but they played for the Sagicor High Performance Centre over the weekend so they got in their preparation as well,"Sammy said yesterday, shortly before he and Zimbabwe skipper Brendan Taylor unveiled the Clive Lloyd trophy and the International Home Series 2013 trophy on the outfield in front the 3Ws Stand.
The West Indies batting is slowly beginning to acquire a settled look, with three senior batsmen in the top five and two promising youngsters in Kieran Powell and Darren Bravo as the other two specialists. One of their decisions to be made will be whether to play two specialist spinners, or to go in with one slow bowler and the part-time offerings of Narsingh Deonarine as back-up.
Whatever the combination, Sammy expects his side to get the job done.
"We have five days of cricket to win a Test match and we will look to do that. We have to go out and put in the good work. Whatever (pitch) we get we have to go out and do a thorough and professional job. We don't really see fast and bouncy pitches in the Caribbean these days and we are used to working with what we have. The key is to be focused and disciplined...go out and put in the performances to beat the Zimbabweans.
While the home side is chasing some impressive numbers, for Zimbabwe the chance to play Test cricket is a rarity. They haven't played a five-day game since they were trounced in Napier by an innings-and-301-runs by New Zealand more than a year ago. This will only be their fifth Test since ending their six-year exile from the longest version of the game in 2011.
Besides the crippling shortage of experience, they will be up against unfamiliar conditions as well, in what will be their first Test in the Caribbean since 2000. Additionally, they are without the assuring presence of two Zimbabwe stalwarts from the coaching set-up, Grant Flower and Heath Streak.
West Indies from: Darren Sammy (Captain), Chris Gayle, Kieran Powell, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Denesh Ramdin, Narsingh Deonarine, Veerasammy Permaul, Shane Shillingford, Kemar Roach, Shane Shillingford, Tino Best.
Zimbabwe from: Brendan Taylor (Captain), Tino Mawoyo, Vusi Sibanda, Hamilton Masakadza, Regis Chakabva, Malcolm Waller, Kyle Jarvis, Keegan Meth, Tendai Chatara, Chris Mpofu, Prosper Utseya, Sean Williams,Timycen Maruma, Raymond Price, Graeme Cremer.