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Windies battle Sri Lanka today
The Windies home season begins today when they play Sri Lanka in the opening Test of the three-match series at the Queen’s Park Oval in St Clair, Port-of-Spain from 10 am.
The Windies lodged at number nine in the Test rankings will be looking to move up the ladder, starting today against a Sri Lankan team that is facing problems of their own, with questions over a report by Al Jazeera concerning alleged match-fixing.
The action will focus on Windies opener Devon Smith, as to whether he touches the turf at the Oval. Smith, the 36-year-old opening batsman, has been named in the 13-man squad on the strength of a prolific First Class season with the Windward Islands. It remains to be seen if he can earn a spot in the final 11 at the expense of incumbent Kieran Powell and extend a Test career that looked over when he was dropped following the second Test of the home series against England in his native Grenada in 2015.
If he gets in, he will be looking to send a message to all doubters about that fact that age is just a number. His experience will be welcomed though as the Windies team is an inexperienced unit when compared to the other major Test-playing countries in the world.
Despite a poor showing in their most recent Test series in New Zealand, last December, the West Indies selectors have retained the bulk of that squad in the expectation of returning to the level of competitiveness they showed in earlier Test campaigns last year against Pakistan, England and Zimbabwe.
Sri Lankan has visited the Caribbean only three times before for Test matches and is yet to win a series here. On their last campaign to the region ten years earlier, the team led by Mahela Jayawardene claimed their first Test victory in the Windies shared rubber.
Sri Lanka will be keen to extend the form of their last seven matches in which they were beaten just once, away to top-ranked India, and enjoyed an historic 2-0 triumph over Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates while also prevailing at home over an improving Bangladesh side by the same margin in their last Test action in February.
However, the Sri Lankans’ preparations for this series have been hampered by unexpected setbacks involving key players. Concerns also linger over a number of seniors in the squad who are being managed very carefully with a view to ensuring their readiness for the World Cup in England in 11 months’ time.
Opener Dimuth Karunaratne misses the tour because of injury, as do fast bowlers Dushmantha Chameera and Nuwan Pradeep. Emerging batting star Dhananjaya de Silva arrived in Trinidad on Monday having stayed at home when the touring party departed Colombo because of the shooting death of his father, a local councillor in the Sri Lankan capital, the evening before they were due to start the journey to the West Indies on May 25.
It is unlikely that he will be considered for the first Test although he is expected to be back in the key number three position come the second Test in St Lucia and the final match in Barbados, the first-ever day/night Test to be played in the West Indies.
Of the trio of senior statesmen in their side, left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, former captain Angelo Mathews and fast-medium bowler Suranga Lakmal, only Mathews featured in the lone warm-up match ahead of the Tests, a drawn three-day fixture against a Cricket West Indies President’s XI highlighted by captain Dinesh Chandimal’s assured hundred.
The pitch at the Oval is expected to give some assistance to the fast bowlers over the first five sessions or so, with the spinners coming into focus later on.
Ticket sales have been slow as has been the case for Test cricket over the past few years and according to one official, the call for the boycott has had no effect with the sales, indicating that the regular numbers for attendance will be attained.
Windies: Kraigg Brathwaite, Kieran Powell, Devon Smith, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich (wk), Jason Holder (capt.), Devendra Bishoo, Miguel Cummins, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel.
Sri Lanka: Kusal Mendis, Mahela Udawatte, Kusal Perera, Roshen Silva, Dinesh Chandimal (capt.), Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Dilruwan Perera, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Gamage.
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