Windies tasked with uncharacteristic encore

Perhaps the only drawback to being successful is having been successful. And nobody knows it better than the Windies, now a mere remnant of a powerful cricket regime which has spent unwilling years convincing the world of their promising inability. Every defeat cannot be a death knell, and every win a missing piece of puzzle in their return from the dead. After a surprisingly convincing win over Sri Lanka in Port of Spain last week, the hosts will be at it again, this time in Gros Islet starting Thursday (June 14) to try and remind the world that the Windies — unlike the great West Indies — are an acquired taste, and that they need to work hard for their trophies.

With a 1-0 lead in the three-match series, the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium in St Lucia could witness something momentous. And it’s not just Sri Lanka reuniting with the venue they famously flagged off fifteen years ago; it’s as much about the hosts having a sniff at a series win, something so rare that it’s trumped only by the compliments for a perpetually rebuilding Windies side.

2012 was the last they won a home series against a team other than Zimbabwe and Bangladesh — both of whom were overwhelming also-ran, and not without a reason. It’s about time for an encore for the Windies, and with an evolving batting order (read: Shane Dowrich) and upgraded confidence (read: Kieran Powell), they look ready to do it against better sides.

Which brings us to Sri Lanka, who deserve a thorough interrogation. Long gone are the days when you could hit the Caribbean shores and be allowed to suffer a misfortune, returning with scars — not necessarily metaphorical — telling the tale of a lesser player than you assumed yourself to be. You don’t come here now and lose. Not anymore. You aren’t playing the great West Indies, which is what makes Sri Lanka’s loss to the Windies modernistically ordinary.

Kusal Mendis broke through with a stunning second-innings hundred while Lahiru Kumara impressed with his hostile seven wickets in the game, both the players recompensing for the team even in a loss. Those positives aside, what could knock them sideways is the absence of Angelo Mathews, who has returned home for personal reasons. Dinesh Chandimal, in light of this, will need to take up a more mature role that demands immediate binning of that half-cocked slog he played in the second innings.

When: June 14-18 at 10:00 AM Local time (7:30 PM IST)

Where: Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium, Gros Islet, St Lucia

What to expect: The pitch here has graduated from a flat featherbed to something with a defining character. It should start with some early help for the pacers, as evidenced by the six and nine-wicket hauls respectively for Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Miguel Cummins in the last Test played here, and then is likely to deteriorate. In five Tests here, three have ended in a draw while two have been won by sides batting first. A few showers are predicted across the five days of the Test match, which should keep the pitch fresh.

Team News:

Windies: With a persuasive win in the first Test, Windies are likely to be unchanged. The only facet that wasn’t better than Sri Lanka was the opening batsmanship, and the onus will be on Kraigg Brathwaite and Devon Smith to score (and not lose a wicket to a run-out).

Probable XI: Devon Smith, Kraigg Brathwaite, Kieran Powell, Shai Hope, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich(w), Jason Holder (c), Devendra Bishoo, Kemar Roach, Miguel Cummins, Shannon Gabriel

Sri Lanka: The visitors will be without the services of Mathews, who left the squad for personal reasons, and Lahiru Gamage — the opening bowler alongside Suranga Lakmal at Port of Spain — who’s been ruled out to a fractured finger. Dasun Shanaka and Danushka Gunathilaka have been named as replacements but they fly out on the eve of the match, and won’t be available. This could pave way for 20-year-old Asitha Fernando’s Test debut, whereas Dhananjaya de Silva, who joined the squad belatedly due to his father’s death, should slot in for Mathews.

Probable XI: Kusal Perera/Mahela Udawatte, Kusal Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal(c), Dhananjaya de Silva, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella(w), Dilruwan Perera, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakma, Lahiru Kumara, Asitha Fernando

What they said:

“We had a lot of time to sit back and reflect on how the last year ended. To start this series the way we’ve started it is quite pleasing. Knowing that in the past we’ve lost at the start of the series and were playing catch-up cricket, it was good to come out of the gates on a winning note” – Jason Holder, Windies skipper.

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