WI on the prowl
DESPITE the afternoon rains of the last couple of days, expect a bumper crowd at Sabina Park today as West Indies hunt their fourth successive win over touring New Zealand.
Victory today would give West Indies captain Daren Sammy and his men a 2-0 lead in the five-match One-Day International Series after their nine-wicket triumph in the rain-hit contest on Thursday. It would also follow their 2-0 conquest of the Kiwis in Twenty20 matches in Florida last week.
This is a weak New Zealand side without a few of their more seasoned performers but for a West Indies team starved of success for far too long, victories, regardless of the opposition, must be treasured.
Sammy recognises that winning must also become a habit, hence his call for greater consistency from his team.
"So far we have been professional in what we do. Game two we have to come back and do the same," he told journalists late Thursday.
After a few signs of slackness in the field and a tendency by one or two of the bowlers to stray past the pads too often, Sammy and coach Ottis Gibson will be keen to tighten up and insist on higher standards.
"We just have to continue growing from strength to strength," said Sammy.
For the 21-year-old Kane Williamson, who is standing in as New Zealand captain because of injury to Ross Taylor, life is very tough just at the moment.
But to his credit he is anticipating "fearless energy" and "attitude" in the New Zealand camp entering today's game.
"It's been one-sided but we believe we have the personnel, that on our day, we can put together some performances from those players... and play good cricket," he told journalists.
Today, West Indies opener Lendl Simmons will be under pressure following his failure on Thursday. Stroke players down the order such as Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo and Marlon Samuels will perhaps be hoping for a chance at the wicket after Gayle and the much improved Dwayne Smith hogged Thursday's show.
Andre Russell's man-of-the-match performance will almost certainly mean that Tino Best is again denied the chance to partner Ravi Rampaul with the new ball, while Jamaicans should get another chance to analyse the mysteries of off-spinner Sunil Narine.
Wicketkeeper/batsman BJ Watling was easily New Zealand's stand-out player on Thursday. His half-century showed strength of character and composure in difficult circumstances. But to really challenge the West Indies batting, Watling and company will need to find and clear the short boundaries at Sabina more often than was the case on Thursday. A longer stay at the wicket for the powerful Jacob Oram would help in that respect.
Also, the Kiwi bowlers must find ways to get wickets. Trying to simply contain Gayle, Smith and the other big hitters in the West Indies line up can't be a recommended strategy on such a small ground. In pursuit of wickets, winning the toss would be a big help for the Blackcaps.
On Thursday, West Indies sent the opposition to bat in seamer friendly conditions and reaped rich rewards before the pitch dried out completely. The same pitch is again being used and yesterday curator Oneil Cruickshank confirmed there had been "light sprinkling" to keep the surface intact.
Also, the threat of rain has forced the ground staff to keep the pitch covered for longer periods than would usually be the case. All of which could mean more moisture than is ideal for batsmen at the start of play.
Long and short of it: Whoever wins the toss will most likely bowl.
Squads: West Indies — Darren Sammy (captain), Dwayne Bravo, Tino Best., Johnson Charles, Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Kiedron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Smith.
New Zealand — Kane Williamson (captain), Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Dean Brownlie, Andrew Ellis, Daniel Flynn, Martin Guptil, Tom Latham, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Tarun Nethula, Rob Nicol, Jacob Oram, Ross Taylor, Tim Southee.