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West indies eye successive Test wins after four years

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Big Picture

Sri Lanka had hoped this would be one of their easier away tours this year. West Indies’ home record was modest; Sri Lanka’s Test side was picking up some momentum. But the Test in Port-of-Spain wasn’t merely a defeat, it was a decimation. Twice West Indies’ quicks scythed through the visitors’ top order. Although Sri Lanka had fielded five frontline bowlers, they still could not capitalise on having the opposition 147 for 5 on the first day. On a batting track, only Kusal Mendis could muster a score of over 45 – and even that, only having given two clear-cut chances.

When these teams had last met, in Sri Lanka in 2015, West Indies had shown flashes of individual brilliance but had failed to come together as a team. In the first Test, they had no such problems. Commitment to the team cause was visible in the way Devendra Bishoo and Kemar Roach buckled down alongside Shane Dowrich, to haul West Indies to a formidable score. Even with the ball, there were unlikely contributors – Roston Chase running through Sri Lanka’s tail on the fifth day, after the quicks had knocked out the top order.

While the hosts surge, Sri Lanka have tactical questions to answer. Is the five-frontline bowler strategy worth persisting with, given Dilruwan Perera’s modest returns with the ball? Kusal Perera is likely to make way for Dhananjaya de Silva at the top of the innings, but can Sri Lanka accommodate Kusal lower down the order, now that Angelo Mathews has left the tour? And is the attack dynamic enough? Or does it require the insertion of Akila Dananjaya?

However Sri Lanka chooses to answer those questions, they will be in flux – Lahiru Gamage also having left the Caribbean, with a fractured finger.

West Indies are in the unusual position of having to follow up a supremely dominant performance. One fact that may give Sri Lanka some hope is that it has been almost four years, and 31 Tests, since West Indies won back-to-back matches.

Form guide

Sri Lanka LWDDL (completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies WLLDW

In the spotlight

While the opposition struggles with balancing their XI, the man who ensures West Indies have no such issues is Jason Holder. He was part of his team’s the first-innings resistance with the bat in game one, before supporting the frontline bowlers through the remainder of the Test. That he is growing in confidence as a leader was evident from his first-innings declaration – pulling the batsmen out with the score at 414 for 8, in order to bowl at Sri Lanka late on the second day. His batting average is on a gentle forward march, but it is a breakdown of his bowling figures that provides the biggest surprise. In West Indies victories, Holder averages a staggering 17.69, compared to his average of over 50 in drawn and lost Tests. If Holder gets wickets, West Indies tend to be competitive.

It was a surprise that Lahiru Kumara took twice as many wickets as any other Sri Lanka bowler in Trinidad. Although he is still hugely indisciplined, the pace and bounce he generated made him effective on a largely unresponsive track. Kumara’s issue, though, has been consistency. He excites on occasion, but can just as easily go wicketless and leak a hundred runs in the next match. With Gamage out of the side, Sri Lanka are desperate for Kumara to provide the same intensity in St Lucia that he had shown in Trinidad.

Team news

Devon Smith’s comeback Test did not go well. But it is possible West Indies will give him another shot at the top of the order, which will, of course, keep Shimron Hetmyer out of the XI. If Hetmyer does play, he will probably bat at No. 3 and Powell will open the innings again. Elsewhere, West Indies are unlikely to make changes.

West Indies (possible): 1 Kraigg Brathwaite, 2 Devon Smith, 3 Kieran Powell, 4 Shai Hope, 5 Roston Chase, 6 Shane Dowrich (wk), 7 Jason Holder (capt), 8 Devendra Bishoo, 9 Miguel Cummins, 10 Kemar Roach, 10 Shannon Gabriel

If Dhananjaya de Silva plays, Sri Lanka not only gain a batsman averaging over 45 after 13 Tests (though his best performances have come in Asia), they also have a half-decent offspinner in the top six. Perhaps this will prompt them to return to a 7-4 combination, fielding an extra batsman in place of another bowler. Dilruwan Perera, the most orthodox of Sri Lanka’s spinners, also stands to lose his spot to Akila Dananjaya – a far less experienced but more aggressive option.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Kusal Mendis, 2 Mahela Udawatte, 3 Dhananjaya de Silva, 4 Roshen Silva, 5 Dinesh Chandimal (capt), 6 Kusal Perera, 7 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 8 Rangana Herath, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Akila Dananjaya, 11 Lahiru Kumara

Pitch and conditions

The weather is forecast to worsen in Gros Islet over the weekend, possibly causing interruptions.

Seam bowlers had done well in the most-recent Test played at this venue – the India-West Indies Test of 2016. Given the home quicks’ dominance in Trinidad, a lively pitch could be expected.

Stats and trivia

  • Rangana Herath is now on 418 Test wickets, making him the most-successful fingerspinner in Test history (Muttiah Muralitharan primarily used his wrist to impart spin, though he was an offspinner). Only Murali, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble sit ahead of him on the spinners’ list.

  • West Indies’ last back-to-back Test victories came against Bangladesh, at home, in September 2014.

  • Three of the five Tests played in Gros Islet have been draws, but the two most-recent matches have produced results. West Indies beat Bangladesh there in that 2014 series, then lost to India in 2016.



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N Srinivasan’s 3 am message to Dwayne Bravo – ‘Please take the field’

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On October 17, 2014, India and West Indies played the fourth ODI of a five-match series, in the hill town of Dharamsala. Halfway through the match, news emerged that the West Indies Cricket Board (now Cricket West Indies) had decided to call off the rest of the tour. The WICB communicated to the BCCI that it was left with no choice after a contracts fallout with the players.

Dwayne Bravo was West Indies’ captain for that series. He would never again play an ODI. Bravo, who retired from international cricket late last month, has pointed to the dispute as the main reason for this. Bravo spoke recently to i955fm, a Trinidad-based radio station, chronicling the sequence of events that led to the India tour being abandoned.

Looking back the events that transpired in India, would you do anything differently?

The only thing I would do differently is tape everyone. Record everyone who was in there. I’m the only player that really paid for what happened in India. The only one who never get the opportunity to play one-day cricket again. I made a stand, as the captain, as the leader of the team, for the best interest of my players, and by extension the players who have come and played for West Indies cricket. At the end of the day, it wasn’t fair on our bosses to send us on tour and cut the guys’ contract by 75 percent. It was just really unfair.

“If you pick up the phone, call the president and said sort this out, he has to listen.’ It’s Clive Lloyd, one of the biggest names in world cricket. I guess that call was never made.”

Was it unanimous?

Collectively as a team, we decided what to do. I listened to every single player. Apart from one player, everyone signed on a piece of paper, that they were all in support of leaving the tour. But we did not just decide to walk away from the tour. There were different times when we tried to reach out to both our WIPA president [Wavell Hinds] and the cricket president [Dave Cameron, Cricket West Indies president]. So we threatened [to pull out] from the first game, but we played. We threatened for the second game, but we played. The [fourth] game we went out (the whole team accompanied Bravo to the toss), so it was just a message and a signal, trying to let them know that we are not happy with whatever is going on.

I remember fully well before we said we weren’t going to play the first game, 3 am in the morning, I get a message from the BCCI boss, the old one, Mr [N] Srinivasan, that “please take the field.” I listened to him – and woke up at 6 am to tell the team that we have to play. And everyone was against playing. Everyone thought that I panicked and chickened out and all these things.

But I was more concerned about the players’ future more than anything else, because it was a serious decision to not play and walk away from the tour. All of us could have been banned for life. So by taking the opportunity and listening to the bosses of BCCI, that was one way to ensure that we are protected.

After that first game what happened?

We played the first game, we beat India, then we traveled to Delhi. At that time the president [Cameron] was in Dubai, which is few hours away from Delhi. He said he is still not going to come and meet us.

Where was WIPA president [Hinds] all this time?

In Jamaica. They [Hinds and Cameron] were scheduled to come, I think, two weeks after the ODI series, by when most of us would have left. Only the Test team would be there. We play the second game, we lose, then the third game rained out, so we stayed in Delhi for an extra week. Again the president [Cameron] refused to come. Then we went to Dharamsala, up in the hills, that’s where we play the last game.

Did anyone from BCCI still try to influence you all to continue to play?

After we played three of the games, we decided we’re going to see how far we reach. Hopefully someone from the West Indies board come and assist us. I remember talking to Mr Lloyd (Clive Lloyd, chairman of selectors at the time), pleading to him basically that he can actually make a difference in this situation because at the end of the day he’s Clive Lloyd. “If you pick up the phone, call the president [Cameron] and said sort this out, he (the president) has to listen.” It’s Clive Lloyd, one of the biggest names in world cricket. I guess that call was never made and at the end of the day Dwayne Bravo and to a lesser extent [Kieron] Pollard – who got a bit of the blame – but it was all on my shoulders.

“Darren Bravo and Denesh Ramdin both stand up and say, ‘Wavell, that’s a lie. That never took place.’ Wavell Hinds had nothing to say.”

For people to really understand that one of the reasons we even had that fallout between players and the board as far as the contracts is concerned, in January of 2014 we had a WIPA general meeting. The WIPA president Mr Hinds said that we have a proposal – we want to implement a professional league system and in order for that to take place, they asked the West Indies men’s senior team to take a salary cut. So, the senior players who were in the meeting – myself, [Ramnaresh] Sarwan, [Shivnarine] Chanderpaul – we all agree. We said okay, yes we can take a salary cut, let’s discuss figures. The president [Hinds] said that there are no figures yet. They wanted to know whether or not the players would be willing to take a salary cut and when at the end of that meeting our answer was yes, we can take a salary cut, let us know the percentage.

The next time we hear from WIPA, or see anything about our contract or new figures, was in October, when the team was already in India. When the team arrived in India – I was already there playing Champions League for Chennai Super Kings – couple of the players message me, “skipper, did you see the new contract?” I said, no. When you look at it, you see, straight across the board, the players’ salary was cut by 75 percent. That’s where it really, really happened, where everything break down. I straightaway get on to Wavell Hinds. He says, “Bravo, tell the players do not sign the contract, it’s not still cast in stone, do not sign the contract.”

Wavell Hinds told you not to sign the contracts?

Yes, which I relayed that to the players. After, before we play our first game (first ODI), that we had a Skype call with Wavell Hinds.

You should’ve recorded that?

As I said that is the only regret I have, that I did not record these things. We said to him “who gave you the rights to negotiate our new contracts without discussing it with any player?” He said he talk to some players. We said, “who you talk to?” He said he talk to Denesh Ramdin and Darren Bravo. Darren Bravo and Denesh Ramdin both stand up and say, “Wavell, that’s a lie. That never took place.” Wavell Hinds had nothing to say.

Then, his next excuse was he sent the information to Samuel Badree months ago and it was Samuel Badree’s responsibility to relay the message to the players. Samuel Badree said to him, in his face, “Wavell Hinds I am a cricketer. It is your job [and] that’s why we elect you as president.” You can’t send a player who is on tour, playing cricket, a 90-page contract, saying to go through it [and] relay the message to the players. That’s where it all break down, where it all went wrong.

After that tour the BCCI said it was owed by the CWI about USD 40-plus million because the players left the tour?

It was a big damage. Obviously a hefty bill. To me my concern was players and our contracts.

Do you think the BCCI was on the side of the Windies players? Or they understood the players?

Yeah, they understood, of course. Because they were very supportive of all of us. Actually they even offered to pay us whatever we were losing. We was like, “we don’t want you to pay us. We need our board to sort out our contracts.” The BCCI was very, very supportive and that is one of the reasons why most of us were still able to continue playing without any serious, serious problems taking place.



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Sui Gas inflict two-day thrashing upon Lahore Blues, WAPDA beat KRL

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Lahore Blues outgunned by SNGPL

It doesn’t say much about a team that loses by an innings to a side that only managed 258, but such was Lahore Blues’ performance in this crunch Super Eight match. It was a nine-wicket match haul by Imran Khalid that beset Lahore most, playing a large part in ensuring they were bowled out for 122 and 108 either side of SNGPL’s innings. Iftikhar Ahmed was primarily responsible for getting SNGPL to 258, scoring 125, a number the entire Lahore side failed to manage in either of their innings. It leaves Lahore at the bottom of the table after two losses from two, while a perfect record for SNGPL sees them take top spot.

Zahid Mansoor spins WAPDA to innings win

Khan Research Laboratories met a similarly ignominious fate, unable to total up to the 296 WAPDA scored in their one innings. KRL stumbled to 12 for 5 in the first innings, setting the tone for the match. Their 110 was answered by 296 from WAPDA thanks to a number of middle-order contributions, notably half-centuries from Abubakar Khan and Kamran Akmal. The 186-run lead they established was too much to overhaul for KRL, with Zahid Mansoortaking another four wickets to go with his four in the first innings, while Waqas Maqsood, recently called up to the Pakistan T20I side, took another three as KRL were wrapped up for 162.

Heavyweights SSGC, HBL play out stalemate

Two of the heavyweights on the domestic circuit, SSGC and HBL, couldn’t be separated over four days, a grinding battle ending with the points shared. After Aamer Yamin‘s 80 had taken SSGC to 211, after Khurram Shehzad had wiped out five of the top six, HBL responded with 274, with eight of the top nine getting into double figures. Zohaib Khan scored 65 as captain Imran Farhat chipped in with 44, while the national selectors will have been pleased to see Mohammad Amir take a five-wicket haul.

In the second innings, SSGC were far more impressive, declaring at 380 for five, with Fawad Alam the top-scorer, unbeaten on 85. The target of 318 was never on for HBL, but they were able to avoid being bowled out, batting nearly 90 overs, with Farhat scoring 77, before the two sides shook hands with four HBL players till undismissed.



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Rahane and Vijay fail amid flurry of half-centuries

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India A 340 for 5 (Vihari 85, Parthiv 79*, Agarwal 65, Shaw 62, Tickner 2-48) v New Zealand A

Four batsmen struck half-centuries for India A on the first day of the four-dayer against New Zealand A in Mount Maunganui, but M Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane missed out, scoring 28 and 12 respectively, as the visitors went to stumps at 340 for 5.

Of those part of the Test touring party to Australia, middle-order batsman Hanuma Vihari top-scored with 85, before being dismissed off the fourth ball of the 90th over, which proved to be the last ball of the day. Vihari and wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel shared the most lucrative stand of the day for India, adding 138 in 199 balls for the fifth wicket before Vihari fell to the medium-pace of Kyle Jamieson.

India began well after choosing to bat, with openers Vijay and Prithvi Shaw adding 61 before Vijay was bowled by Blair Tickner, who was the pick of the New Zealand A bowlers on the day. Shaw, the more dominant opening partner, went on to score an 88-ball 62 and added 50 with Mayank Agarwal before falling to the left-arm spin of Theo van Woerkom. This was the fifth time in his last seven innings that Shaw was dismissed by a spinner.

Agarwal added another 73 runs with Vihari before becoming Tickner’s second victim, for 65. Rahane got off the blocks with a boundary off just his third ball but there wasn’t much joy for India’s vice-captain thereafter, as Doug Bracewell cleaned him up for a 19-ball 12, leaving the match delicately poised. But the Vihari-Parthiv stand helped India seize control again and finish the day on top.



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