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April 23, 2012
West Indies captain Darren Sammy has pointed to Michael Hussey's wicket as the most critical for the hosts as they attempt to secure a share of the Test series with Australia in Dominica to match the ledgers of this tour's ODI and Twenty20 encounters.
In a low-scoring series so far defined by the difficulty of scoring rapid runs on slow surfaces, Hussey's contribution at No. 6 carries far more resonance than the mere numbers, a hard-won 177 runs at 44.25. Sammy said that while he was happy with how his bowlers - Kemar Roach especially - had fulfilled the plans drawn up by the coach Ottis Gibson to restrict Australia's top order, Hussey's recurring rearguards had to be stopped if the West Indies are to win at Windsor Park.
"Hussey has always come in and played a crucial role, and that is one area we are looking to put a stop to," Sammy said. "Once we get them five down, he seems to bat well with the lower order, so we'll be looking to get him out as quickly as possible.
"We've executed our plans to the top order really well and I know they're wary of Roach. The first time he played against them they were and now he's even bowling better. Fidel [Edwards] bowled well without any luck [in Trinidad] and I come in and do my role, [Shane] Shillingford had a good Test, so as a bowling unit I'm quite happy with the way we've gone in this series."
Edwards remains a doubtful starter due to a sore back, Sammy and the selectors conscious of the fact that the end of this series is swiftly followed by the tour of England, while Edwards has been ever present in the West Indian Test bowling attack over the past 12 months.
"We're still monitoring him, Fidel is still optimistic that he's going to play," Sammy said. "We'll monitor it, speak to the physio and Fidel and by tomorrow morning we should have a definite on his situation.
"The selectors will take into consideration that we've got to keep our bowlers fresh, especially Fidel, who had a long two-year break from the game and since he's been back we've been playing a lot of cricket. So we take that into consideration, we have Ravi Rampaul waiting in the wings who was really good for us last year, and I know he's itching to get another opportunity."
Windsor Park's pitch has a little more grass coverage than the bare strips witnessed in Barbados and Trinidad, while batsmen on both sides were impressed on match eve by the pace, bounce and trueness of one of the other centre wickets used for training. Sammy said the surface would provide more encouragement to both batsmen and bowlers than either of the previous two pitches.
"It has a little more grass, the ball will do something early," Sammy said. "I played a four-day game against Guyana here and on the third day it was really good for batting. I expect it to be a good wicket, bowlers and batsmen will be happy. Both teams are looking to win so it should be a very exciting game on a good cricket pitch."
Sammy's desire to build a more robust culture around his team has made great strides, and the incentive offered by a drawn series is significant, not having been achieved by the West Indies against Australia since an endlessly watchable encounter in 1999. It would also match the efforts of the ODI and T20 teams, and send the team to England with ever more optimism.
"It would mean everything to us," Sammy said of securing a 1-1 result. "When Australia came here everybody didn't give us a chance, but we've played a brand of cricket that we want to get used to. That said we've still got to get the victories and that's what we're looking for. To level a series against Australia would be another stepping stone for us.
"It's a culture we're trying to build in the team, the belief we can win against higher-ranked opposition. It's slowly creeping in. In all three series we've displayed that type of attitude. Change sometimes it is difficult to accept and now the players are making a conscious effort to think more about their cricket and what it means to the Caribbean people, and we're looking to display that sort of attitude."
The West Indies players will be reminded strongly of what their performances mean, by what are expected to be packed crowds at the ground, despite the match being played across the working week.
Edited by Kanishkaa Balachandran
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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