The West Indies are set and ready to make the switch from the white ball to the red ball as they gear up to face New Zealand in the Digicel Test Series in Antigua tomorrow.
The Windies are confident following their domination with the white ball in the two-match Digicel T20 Series and five-match Digicel ODI Series.
They will now look to slow down the tempo but increase the intensity as they prepare for two Test matches, the first of which bowls off at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground at 10 a.m.
Captain Darren Sammy made it clear that his players would look to maintain the “momentum” gained from the “positive results” in the limited-overs matches. He added that the team was focused squarely on a series victory to end this year’s international home campaign on a high note.
“We haven’t won a (Test) series at home for a long time. We’re playing some good cricket at the moment and we will go into this series looking to win,” Sammy said.
“We showed encouraging signs when we played (at home) against Australia back in April and we want to show that we are growing as a team.
“We had six of our guys playing for the President’s XI against New Zealand last weekend so everyone is in shape. Roach came back, he got wickets and bowled well; Chanderpaul played very well; Deonarine got a hundred and Fudadin looked quite good, so we will go into the match with confidence. The key is that our guys have been playing. Today we had a good training session, so everyone is preparing well for Wednesday.”
Sammy said it was good for the team to have the experience of opener Chris Gayle back in the line-up to bolster the batting at the top of the order. The 32-year-old is preparing for his 92nd Test match. He has an impressive record of 6,373 runs at an average of over 41 runs per innings. The powerful left-hander has scored 13 Test centuries, including two triple centuries.
The West Indies also have in their 13-man squad Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who is ranked at Number 2 in the International Cricket Council’s Test match batting rankings. As he approaches his 38th birthday, the youthful looking left-hander has an amazing record of 10,290 runs at an average of over 50 – including 25 centuries — in 142 Test matches.
“It is very exciting to have Chris back. I know he is looking forward to being back out in the white clothes. Not just Chris, but Shiv, who is always ready for battle, and everyone in the team. We are eager to get started on Wednesday. With Chris coming back, we have the experience at the top of the order; we can see off the new ball and put up some good totals on the board. You would back our bowlers to come and get 20 wickets for us,” he said.
Meanwhile, New Zealand captain Ross Taylor is optimistic his team can turn things around in the Tests after going under in the ODIs and T20s. They were also made to work hard by the West Indies Cricket Board’s President’s XI in the three-day warm-up match which ended on Sunday.
“We got what we wanted out of the warm-up game. We got two bats (innings) and the bowlers had a good run out. We came away with a draw. We hadn’t played with the red ball for a while so it was good to spend some time in the middle,” Taylor said.
The captain said experienced left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori would be the trump card in the bowling department. He took six wickets against the President’s XI.
“You can’t pay for experience. Vettori showed what a class player he is during the three-day match and will be a handful on that wicket against what is a good West Indies team. We will need to bowl well against their left-handers.
“West Indies will also have their spin threat in Sunil Narine. [On] the type of wickets we play on in the Caribbean, spin plays an important role. We have a world-class spinner in Narine, who proved that throughout the one-day and T20 competition that he’s a handful here in the Caribbean. It’s a different ball and batsmen don’t have to attack him, but I back him to go out there and do well for us,” Sammy said of his possible trump card.
Many eyes will also be on Neil Wagner, the big left-handed South African-born fast bowler. He has dominated the domestic scene in New Zealand in recent years. The days remaining until he qualified to represent New Zealand were eagerly counted down, and he was picked as soon as he was available. He bowled impressively in the practice match. (windiescricket)
West Indies (probable): Darren Sammy (captain), Denesh Ramdin (vice captain), Adrian Barath, Tino Best, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Narsingh Deonarine, Assad Fudadin, Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels.
New Zealand: (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Daniel Flynn, 3 Brendon McCullum, 4 Ross Taylor (capt), 5 Kane Williamson, 6 Dean Brownlie, 7 Daniel Vettori, 8 Kruger van Wyk (wk), 9 Doug Bracewell, 10 Neil Wagner, 11 Chris Martin.