Windies confident... Kick-off Test series quest vs Black Caps
ST JOHN'S, Antigua (CMC) — A confident West Indies will chase their first series win against New Zealand in over a decade when the first Test bowls off here today.
The hosts have not won a series against the Black Caps since 1996 but on the evidence of the preceding Twenty20 and One-Day Internationals results, believe they are on the brink of changing that record.
West Indies swept the Twenty20 double-header in Florida before whipping the Kiwis, 4-1, in the five-match one-day series in a convincing display with both bat and ball.
Veteran left-hander Shiv Chanderpaul, a member of the last team to beat New Zealand in a Test rubber, said yesterday that winning this series would be the ideal way to cap off what had been a good run for the Windies in recent weeks.
"It's very important for us. We've been playing for a while now and we've had a couple of wins and it would be really good to go out and win this series," said the seasoned campaigner of 142 Tests.
"We've done well in the one-day series, the T20 games — we've done pretty well in those couple of formats and it would be nice to crown it off with a Test series [win]."
West Indies' record in recent Tests, however, makes for wretched reading. They have lost four of their six matches this year - going down by 0-2 margins in three-match rubbers to Australia and then England.
Last year, they won just two of ten contests with one of those victories coming against minnows Bangladesh.
This time around, however, West Indies have been reinforced by the inclusion of prolific opener Chris Gayle who is poised to play his first Test in 19 months after ending a bitter feud with the West Indies Cricket Board last month.
One of just four batsmen in history to score a triple century twice in a career, Gayle will offer much needed solidity at the top of the order, breaking up the previous inexperience of Kieran Powell and Adrian Barath.
Gayle will join the in-form pair of Chanderpaul and Marlon Samuels to form a strong Windies batting line-up.
Meanwhile, mystery off-spinner Sunil Narine is set for his second Test appearance after an unflattering debut last month in England.
He proved a handful in the recent limited overs series and on the more spin-friendly Caribbean pitches, could cause some consternation in the New Zealand ranks.
Speedster Kemar Roach is also back from injury to lead the attack, and proved his worth with a sharp performance in the three-day match against the Black Caps here last weekend.
Also in that match, Chanderpaul got a half-century while Narsingh Deonarine hit a century and Sammy said the outing had been a good one in preparation for the Test.
"We had six of our guys playing for the President's XI against New Zealand last weekend so everyone is in shape," Sammy pointed out.
"Roach came back, he got wickets and bowled well; Chanderpaul played very well; Deonarine got a hundred and (Assad) Fudadin looked quite good, so we will go into the match with confidence.
"The key is that our guys have been playing. [Monday] we had a good training session, so everyone is preparing well for Wednesday."
West Indies practised again yesterday, along with New Zealand, who are also confident despite their poor limited-overs series.
Skipper Ross Taylor said the inclusion of left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori would be a huge boost for the Kiwis.
The former captain, who missed the T20s and ODIs, has taken 359 wickets from 111 Tests and sent a stern warning to the Windies during the three-day warm-up match with a six-wicket haul.
"You can't pay for experience. Vettori showed what a class player he is during the three-day match and will be handful on that wicket against what is a good West Indies team. We will need to bowl well against their left-handers," Taylor said.
WEST INDIES — Darren Sammy (captain), Denesh Ramdin (vice-captain), Adrian Barath, Tino Best, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Narsingh Deonarine, Assad Fudadin, Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Kieran Powell, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels.
NEW ZEALAND — Ross Taylor (captain), Martin Guptill, Daniel Flynn, Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson, Dean Brownlie, Daniel Vettori, Kruger van Wyk, Doug Bracewell, Neil Wagner, Chris Martin, Trent Boult, Tarun Nethula, BJ Watling, Mark Gillespie, Tim Southee.