Sri Lanka get a shot at history
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Start time 1000 (local) 1400 (GMT)
The big picture
A victory in the opening Test in Guyana has given Sri Lanka a golden opportunity to claim their first series win in the Caribbean. A win here would also give them a special record: they will become the first visiting side to complete a clean-sweep in the West Indies. Australia came close five years ago, when they won the first three Tests but a record-breaking chase in the final Test in Antigua snuffed out their hopes of a whitewash.
Sri Lanka pulled off a 121-run win in the opening Test in Guyana, with Chaminda Vaas engineering the triumph with a splendid 8 for 109. It was their first Test win in five attempts, giving them a shot at an unprecedented sweep.
The fact that a scheduled warm-up game was cancelled, owing to logistical reasons, is unlikely to dampen Sri Lankan spirits. Mahela Jayawardene has urged his side to go for a win while Chris Gayle, his counterpart, has plenty of problems with regard to team selection. It will no doubt be an uphill task but West Indies have a record to defend and plenty of pride to play for. The weather, though, might have the final say.
Form Guide - West Indies
Last five completed matches: LWLLL
Player to watch: Amit Jaggernauth's exclusion from the side for the first Test created a lot of controversy but he's likely to win his Test cap in front of his home crowd. Jaggernauth's chances were vastly improved with his match-winning performance in the final round Carib Beer Series match against Barbados last weekend. He is the highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 40 wickets at 14.40.
Form Guide - Sri Lanka
Last five completed matches: WWWDW
Player to watch: Thilan Thushara offered steady support to the experienced bowling duo of Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan with match figures of 5 for 129 runs from 37.5 overs. One among the long line of left-arm seamers to have played for Sri Lanka, Thushara made his Test debut on Sri Lanka's previous trip to the Caribbean five years ago. He subsequently faded but grabbed the opportunity in the first Test to stake his claim for a longer tenure.
West Indies will be without allrounder Ryan Hinds, who has a hamstring strain. It means Sewnarine Chattergoon, now fully recovered from the illness, is set to make his Test debut ahead of Devon Smith. He is likely to open along with Chris Gayle. There could also be a rare sight of two specialist spinners in the West Indian squad with Jaggernauth in line to join left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn in the side. The other option was to pick Fidel Edwards as a third fast bowler to support Daren Powell and Jerome Taylor.
Sri Lanka were sweating over the fitness of Prasanna Jayawardene, who missed the final stages of the Guyana Test because of a hamstring injury, but he is set to retain his spot. Ishara Amarasinghe remains an option, instead of Rangana Herath, but it's difficult to see Sri Lanka making too many changes to the winning side.
West Indies (probable XI) 1 Chris Gayle (capt), 2 Sewnarine Chattergoon, 3 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 8 Daren Powell, 9 Jerome Taylor, 10 Sulieman Benn, 11 Amit Jaggernauth.
Sri Lanka (probable XI) 1 Michael Vandort, 2 Malinda Warnapura, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 7 Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 8 Chaminda Vaas, 9 Thilan Thushara, 10 Rangana Herath, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan.
Umpires: Simon Taufel, Billy Bowden.
Pitch & conditions
Rain could play a part in the way the pitch behaves. Brian Davis, the groundsman, has spoken about a seamer-friendly track but things could be way different if West Indies choose two spinners. "Surely nobody wants all pitches to be built just for batsmen," he said.
Weather: The forecast isn't too rosy with showers expected on the second, third and fifth days. The opening day could be overcast too.
"We want to get accustomed to the conditions in Trinidad. We'll make sure we do all the hard work and challenge West Indies, and see if we can win this Test series 2-0."
"I believe that if we can remain positive and focus, we can win the Test. It's a must win situation for us to square the series. We'll try and see what Sri Lanka has to offer a second time around both in the batting and bowling, so it is just for us to return to the drawing board, and come up with a plan, and come prepared to play a tough Test."