Sri Lanka will do well in First Test, says Yardley

Sa'adi Thawfeeq reporting from the Caribbean

Friday 13, June 1997

ST. JOHN'S, ANTIGUA (Thursday) - ``Let 'em smell the leather'', ``give 'em the throat ball'', ``when you go, make sure you go'' are some of the endless advice Sri Lanka's batsmen will be subjected to apart from coping with the West Indies pace battery of four bowlers, when they make their Caribbean Test debut at St. John's Recreation grounds here on Friday.

The success of Sri Lanka's batsmen in this charged atmosphere, enlivened by the Caribbean music and steel bands, will largely depend on how the pitch plays.

The groundsmen here are very much under pressure from the Antiguan public to produce a fast and result-oriented track as there have been more high-scoring draws in the past seven years than a West Indian victory.

West Indies last won here in 1989-90 against New Zealand and since then they have lost to Australia in 1990-91, and the last five Tests have ended in draws.

With four fast bowlers in the side, it is likely that there would be some grass left on the pitch. After all, fast bowling is West Indies' forte and they are certainly not going to miss out on that opportunity.

West Indies know that Sri Lanka are without their key fast bowler Chaminda Vaas, who would have caused some concern to their batsmen on a fast and bouncy track. Sri Lanka are also without the tall and gangling Nuwan Zoysa, who was sent home after it was discovered he was suffering from a stress fracture in his back.

Without such firepower, Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga has very little options to play around with.

``We will have to get the maximum out of what we have. Losing Vaas and Zoysa was a big blow. Vaas is our main bowler and it would have been ideal to have gone into the Test with three left-arm fast bowlers,'' said Ranatunga ruefully.

In the circumstances,Sri Lanka are left with only one of them Sajeeva de Silva who, according to Ranatunga has now become the senior fast bowler in his team, although he has appeared in only two Tests.

Ravindra Pushpakumara or Dulip Liyanage is favoured to partner De Silva. Neither impressed on the flat track against Leeward Islands on the final day, lacking in penetration to breakthrough the opening partnership.

Sri Lanka are likely to go into the Test with two fast bowlers and two spinners - Muthiah Muralitharan and Kumara Dharmasena, unless of course the wicket is a virtual green top when their plans may have to be altered to press in three fast bowers at the expense of Dharmasena.

Considering the prevailing dry weather, the possibility of that happening is quite remote. The pitches are bone dry and likely to encourage spin like it did in the game against Leeward Islands which was played on the strip adjoining the one being prepared for the Test.

Coach Bruce Yardley thinks that Sri Lanka should be able to hold their own in the Tests provided the pitch doesn't do anything extraordinary.

``If the pitch has pace and extra bounce, which is unusual for Antigua, then their fast bowlers will come into the game more than they would do on a flat track. If they bowled on the track given for the three-day game, they wouldn't be a threat,'' said Yardley.

``West Indies have a very experienced pace attack and we have not been subjected to pace like this for a long time. I don't think pace is going to bother Sri Lanka. If the track is flat we shouldn't have trouble. There is no excuse to go with because we have the batting skills to cope with,'' said Yardley.

``Man to man I would say the West Indies pace attack compared to ours is far superior. Our batting however is equal, if not better than theirs. There is Jayasuriya and Mahanama, both now experienced, Atapattu looking very good at no. 3, Aravinda de Silva, one of the best in the world at no. 4, Ranatunga, very experienced at no. 5, Tillekeratne, whom Tony Greig writes as one of the best no. 6's in the world. With Kaluwitharana and Dharmasena at 7 and 8, it is a pretty good batting line-up we have''.

``It always takes some beating to beat West Indies on their home soil, but I am pretty confident Sri Lanka will do well,'' said Yardley.

That thought is shared by former West Indies fast bowler turned radio and TV commentator Colin Croft who says: ``Sri Lanka will be no easy prey and I honestly believe they'll be far more difficult to beat than the Indians''.

While admitting that West Indies were a very strong side, Ranatunga said that their batting revolved very much around Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Carl Hooper. ``Lara is the backbone of their batting and we need to get him early,'' said the Sri Lanka captain.

Chanderpaul is subject to a fitness test on his injured neck which kept him out of the one-off one-day international against Sri Lanka at Port-of-Spain last week. Barbadian left-hander Floyd Reifer is on standby in the 13 to replace Chanderpaul if he doesn't make it. Chanderpaul had an outstanding series against India averaging 73.83 (443 runs) in the Tests and 69.66 (209 runs) in the one-day games.

Curtley Ambrose who spearheads the West Indies bowling will be looking forward to claiming his 300th Test wicket playing on his home ground. The tall 6ft 6 ins tall giant who has bowled West Indies to many Test victories, requires five wickets to join Malcolm Marshall (376 wickets), the present West Indies coach, skipper Courtney Walsh (332) and Lance Gibbs (309) as the only West Indians to do so.

In the one-day international against Sri Lanka, Ambrose became the first West Indies bowler to take 200 wickets in the abbreviated game. Lara is also in line to reach a milestone, requiring 116 runs to top 4,000 runs in Test cricket.

The teams:

SRI LANKA (from): Arjuna Ranatunga (captain), Roshan Mahanama, Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu, Aravinda de Silva, Hashan Tillekeratne, Romesh Kaluwitharana, Kumara Dharmasena, Muthiah Muralitharan, Sajeeva de Silva, Dulip Liyanage, Ravindra Pushpakumara.

WEST INDIES (from): Courtney Walsh (captain), Stuart Williams, Sherwin Campbell, Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Carl Hooper, Roland Holder, Floyd Reifer, Courtney Browne, Ian Bishop, Curtley Ambrose, Franklyn Rose, Mervyn Dillon.

UMPIRES: Lloyd Barker (West Indies) and Steve Dunne (New Zealand).

MATCH REFEREE : Talat Ali (Pakistan).

Source: The Daily News

Contributed by CricInfo Management
Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 15:31