West Indies seek to extend rare winning run
Match factsMarch 12-16, Bridgetown
Start time 1000 (1400 GMT)
The last time West Indies won five Tests in a row was back in the late 80s, when they were still the reigning kings of world cricket. Viv Richards was the captain, leading a side strewn with legends to comprehensive series victories in England and Australia. West Indies have fallen so far from those peaks that in the seven years Prior to the start of their home season last year, they had been victorious in only five Tests.
Through a quirk of scheduling that pitted them against some relatively lightweight opposition, West Indies are currently on a four-Test winning streak, with two matches against the Test irregulars Zimbabwe coming up.
The Kensington Oval was a fortress for West Indies for much of the 20th century but, although the record has dimmed in recent years, Darren Sammy's experienced side will be confident of extending their successful stretch to six games.
While the home side chase 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, and there is further uncertainty on the horizon as this head coach Alan Butcher's last series in charge before his contract expires.
Form guideWest Indies: WWWWD (Completed matches, most recent first)
Players to watch
In his second coming, Marlon Samuels has quickly became West Indies' most influential batsman across formats. He was missing in the limited-overs leg of the series as he completed his recovery from the eye injury he suffered in the Big Bash. His first match since early January was the tour game against the Zimbabweans last week and he hit his stride with a brisk 55. He's in a rich vein of form in Tests, having scored six half-centuries and three hundreds in his past nine matches.
Brendan Taylor is among Zimbabwe's most important batsmen, but he hasn't quite managed to find his form in this series so far. A string of single-digit scores in the limited-overs matches meant he hasn't been able to carry the touch that made him one of the standout players in the Bangladesh Premier League last month.
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.
West Indies (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Kieran Powell, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 6 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 7 Darren Sammy (capt), 8 Veerasammy Permaul, 9 Kemar Roach, 10 Shane Shillingford, 11 Tino Best
Zimbabwe (squad) 1 Brendan Taylor (capt), 2 Tino Mawoyo, 3 Vusi Sibanda, 4 Hamilton Masakadza, 5 Regis Chakabva, 6 Malcolm Waller, 7 Kyle Jarvis, 8 Keegan Meth, 9 Tendai Chatara, 10 Chris Mpofu, 11 Prosper Utseya, 12 Sean Williams, 13 Timycen Maruma, 14 Raymond Price, 15 Graeme Cremer
Stats and trivia
- West Indies didn't lose a single Test at the Kensington Oval between 1935 and 1994.
- There have only been six Tests so far between the two sides, with West Indies winning four and the other two being drawn.
- Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Heath Streak are the only three players to have played in all six Tests between the two sides.
- With 23 wickets, Ray Price is the most successful bowler in Tests between West Indies and Zimbabwe.
Quotes"Having Marlon back is great news for us. The injury was unfortunate but he has been a big player for us in the last 12 months or so."
West Indies coach Ottis Gibson on Samuels' return
"Hoping we'll bat better than we did in the one-day series, we need to get more runs to stay competitive."
Zimbabwe coach Alan Butcher
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo