NatWest Series under way - and the sun shines through
The NatWest Series opened in Bristol under rather better weather than during the previous few days, warm and humid, with the sun often shining through the haze. The West Indies won the toss and decided to bat.
The Nevill Road ground capacity had been raised to about 10,500, thanks to temporary seating, and about 6,500 of these had been sold in advance. The pitch is expected to play true, if slow and low, meaning the batsmen will have to work for their runs, as the desired amount of sun has been unavailable recently, due to circumstances beyond the club's control.
Familiar faces from Zimbabwe attack
Henry Olonga, classified as fit in Zimbabwe, returned to England but has already brokendown with a recurrence of his leg injury and is unlikely to play in the series at all. In fielding practice both other key bowlers, Heath Streak and Pommie Mbangwa, injured their shoulders and will miss this match, although they are likely to be fit for the weekend.
This leaves them with a pop-gun attack based on medium-paced seam, with spin coming from Dirk Viljoen, preferred to Paul Strang on the grounds that he is batting better. In addition, Alistair Campbell has been included in the team for Stuart Carlisle, a triumph for the status quo, despite a year-long history of disappointment in international cricket, over current form and confidence.
The West Indies for their part have given Sherwin Campbell and Curtly Ambrose leave of absence for the tournament, and omitted Shivnarine Chanderpaul, with elbow trouble, and rested Courteney Walsh, despite the match being played on his old home ground. Perhaps the only worry for them would be overconfidence.
West Indies: Adrian Griffith, Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Brian Lara, Jimmy Adams (capt), Ricky Powell, Ridley Jacobs, Nixon McLean, Mervyn Dillon, Franklyn Rose, Reon King.
Zimbabwe: Neil Johnson, Craig Wishart, Murray Goodwin, Alistair Campbell, Andy Flower (capt), Grant Flower, Guy Whittall, Dirk Viljoen, Mluleki Nkala, Bryan Strang, Gary Brent.