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From in front - Saturday 26, June-2004

West Indies captain Brian Lara with the Natwest Series Trophy. West Indies captain Brian Lara with the Natwest Series Trophy.

by Tony Cozier in England
BIRMINGHAM – Brian Lara is keen to eradicate a pattern that has developed since his return as West Indies captain.

The aim, he said yesterday on the eve of the team’s opening match in the One-Day NatWest Series against New Zealand today, was “to start winning from ball one” rather than to save face or prevent whitewashes.

“The trend in our cricket is that we tend to let the opposition make the running and then try to get back in the games,” Lara said. “We need to start in front and get ourselves hyped up as early as possible to win games.”

He noted that against Australia last year and England this year, West Indies lost the first three of four Tests before avoiding the indignity of their first clean sweep in a home series by beating the former and drawing with the latter.

In between, only a draw in the third Test denied South Africa a 4-0 triumph in the previous away series last December and January.

The same tendency exists in One-Day Internationals.

Last year, West Indies won the last three matches after losing the first four to Australia and were beaten in the first two by Sri Lanka in the series that followed before gaining a consolation victory in the third.

Even against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, they have been exposed for their lethargic starts.

They were behind 2-1 to Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe last November before taking the series 3-2; and scraped past Bangladesh with their last pair together in the first of the three matches last month before taking the next two.

The devastating loss to the part-timers of Ireland in the second match of the tour just over a week ago simply continued the drift.

Yet Lara said he was encouraged by the way the team rallied for subsequent victories over Sussex and Kent in the two county matches that have had to serve as preparation for the NatWest, in which they will play three matches each against New Zealand and England prior to the July 10 final.

“We were a bit down after that loss in Ireland but we batted very well in the matches in Sussex and Kent,” he said, referring to winning totals of 181 for four off 21 overs and 274 for eight off 50.

He acknowledged there was “some work to do with the ball” after Ireland amassed 295 for four off 46.5 overs for their famous victory, and Sussex totalled 292 for six from 50 overs before rain reduced West Indies’ target.

One of the main bowling problems has been no-balls and wides – 31 and 52, respectively, in the four matches to date.

“I think the guys are going to be much more focused, now that the international series has arrived, in getting the balls in the right areas and keeping their front foot behind the line,” was Lara’s hopeful comment.

It is likely that the tour selectors – named by Lara as himself, vice-captain Ramnaresh Sarwan, coach Gus Logie and manager Tony Howard – will bank on three fast bowlers supported by the medium-pace of the two Dwaynes – Smith and Bravo – and the off-spin of Chris Gayle.


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Smith and Bravo are genuine all-rounders who also lengthen the batting and sharpen the fielding.

Smith is 21, Bravo 20 and, with practice and experience, can eventually bring to West Indies what key men like Jacques Kallis bring to South Africa and Andrew Flintoff to England.

This is a crucial tour for their development and an advantage that they start with the shorter game to which their talents are better suited at present.

Lara even hinted yesterday that Smith would continue at No. 3, where he batted in the last two, abbreviated One-Day Internationals against Bangladesh and against Kent last Monday.

If so, he would replace Ricardo Powell, who was promoted with some success against both South Africa and England in the last two series but who would revert to his previous position of No. 6.

Lara said he would follow Sarwan at No.5 to provide his class and experience to the “middle overs” when the ball was softer, the field restrictions were lifted and placement was more beneficial than ball beating.

West Indies’ last encounter with New Zealand was more than a year ago in the World Cup in South Africa when a succession of careless dismissals, most critically Lara’s sensational, direct-hit run-out by Chris Cairns attempting a third run, led to defeat by 20 runs.

The Black Caps, as the New Zealanders call themselves, are an efficient unit, heavily reliant on the batting of their left-handed captain, Stephen Fleming, and the belligerent Nathan Astle and the all-round talents of Cairns, Scott Styris, Chris Harris and Jacob Oram.

But they are without Shane Bond, their outstanding fast bowler who has been out of action for a year with a back injury, and are still smarting after their 3-0 whitewash by England in the preceding Test series.

Teams: West Indies (probable) – Brian Lara (captain), Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dwayne Smith, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Ricardo Powell, Dwayne Bravo, Ridley Jacobs, Ian Bradshaw, Ravi Rampaul, Tino Best or Jermaine Lawson.

New Zealand (from) – Stephen Fleming (captain), Nathan Astle, Craig McMillan, Brendon McCullum, Hamish Marshall, Chris Cairns, Scott Styris, Jacob Oram, Chris Harris, Daniel Vettori, Daryl Tuffey, Michael Papps, Gareth Hopkins, James Franklin, Ian Butler.

Compliments of the Nation News


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