With the focus shifted from the shortest format to the longest today the West Indies senior team will battle Sri Lanka in the first of a three-test match series at the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad and Tobago.
Sri Lanka is the higher ranked team, sixth, to ninth by the Windies and statistical form and the composition of the teams appear to be different since they last met in 2015.
Sri Lanka capitalized on a good warm-up match against the Cricket West Indies President’s XI where three of their batsmen notched up half centuries while skipper, Dinesh Chandimal sent a message to the West Indians with a fine century as the Sri Lanks continue to search for their first series win in the region.
Chandimal is one of only six members of their 16-man squad to play against the Windies while seven players from the home team have never faced Sri Lanka.
Chandimal, who also is the wicketkeeper in the side, is also ranked 10th in the format and averages 43 with 10 centuries including a ceremonial 151 against the very opposition.
Former captain, Angelo Mathews is considerably the best all-rounder and most experienced player in the side averaging 44 with the bat and taking 33 wickets at an economy rate of 2.7 in his 72 matches.
Mathews, however, is expected to play as a specialist batsman having been deemed match fit but not `bowling fit.’
Kraigg Braithwaite and Kemar Roach are the two most experienced players in the Windies side with 44 matches each and it is no surprise that they will be expected to lead in the batting and bowling departments respectively.
Sri Lanka totals only 252 tests amongst the team compared to West Indies’ tally of 308.
Sri Lanka has four debutants in their squad, while for the Windies, Jahmar Hamilton is the only player yet to play a test match.
The 27-year-old Hamilton, impressed for West Indies A during a home series against
England Lions in February-March, scoring 100, 29 and 79 in the two first-class matches.
Looking at the batting for the Windies, the maroon boys would like to set the tone of the match and shake off whatever rust is left with today’s game marking their first test of the year.
Kieran Powell and Braithwaite shared a half century stand in their previous match and have time-and-time-again shown there is chemistry among the two, but should the West Indies do well and post imposing totals, a lot will depend on the two to lay the foundation.
The recall of Devon Smith after three years came as no surprise as Smith was the leading run getter in the domestic season last year, smashing six hundreds. But, at age 36, Smith has only managed one century in the 38 matches of his international career and as such, it will come down to either Powell or Smith to pair with Braithwaite at the top of the order.
Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, Shane Dowrich and Roston Chase form the core of the middle order with Chase and Hope already showing their potential while Hetmyer has impressed in his first-class career. Despite his international career suffering a shaky start, the 21-year-old came into form with a fighting 66 in his last innings.
Windies skipper, Jason Holder has been transformed into a genuine all-rounder along with Chase. He has already scored two hundreds and accounted for 53 wickets from his 29 matches.
The pace department with the likes of Roach, Miguel Cummings, Holder and Shannon Gabriel may not be the deadly four of West Indians in the past but is definitely a pace attack that can threaten the top batsmen in the world.
With the four pacers, the spin options also look effective with the leg break genius, Devendra Bishoo leading that department along with Chase and Braithwaite.
The Windies will need to take 20 wickets in order to go one up in the series and with the variety of bowlers in the side, it will be interesting to see how the Sri Lanka batsmen will negotiate them.
The Sri Lanka batsmen are quite capable of spending long stints at the crease and piling up runs as Chandimal, Mathews and Dhananjaya deSilva average 43, 44 and 46 respectively.
Roshan Silva, with only three matches, has blasted one century and three fifties and will be looking to cash in big should he get a spot in the side which seems more than likely.
Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis and Kusal Perera all average over 30 and have found form, scoring half centuries in the warm up match against the President’s XI.
Sri Lanka will be heavily dependent on their frontline bowler, Suranga Lakmal, the right-hand quick with over 100 wickets from 44 matches.
Lakmal made his debut against the Windies in 2010 while Dilruwan Perera is the only other bowler in the side with over 100 wickets from just 27 tests.
The first ball bowls off at 10:00h.
West Indies Squad: Jason Holder (capt), Devendra Bishoo, Kraigg Brathwaite, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich (wk), Shannon Gabriel, Jahmar Hamilton (wk), Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Kieran Powell, Kemar Roach, Devon Smith
Sri Lanka Squad: Dinesh Chandimal (capt), Mahela Udawatte, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Roshen Silva, Angelo Mathews (subject to fitness), Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Akila Dananjaya, Jeffrey Vandersay, Lahiru Gamage, Kasun Rajitha, Suranga Lakmal (subject to fitness), Lahiru Kumara, Asitha Fernando