GROS ISLET, St Lucia (CMC) — West Indies are poised for their first series win over a higher-ranked nation in six years, but will be wary of a wounded Sri Lanka, when they clash in the second Test at the Darren Sammy Cricket Ground starting here today.
The Windies' last series win over a major nation came when they swept New Zealand 2-0 in the Caribbean back in 2012. Since then, their only successes have come against minnows Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
However, following their emphatic 226-run victory in the opening Test in Port of Spain last weekend, the Windies are now well placed to turn the screws on Sri Lanka, and Captain Jason Holder said the opening win had given his side a massive boost of confidence.
“The mood is pretty good. All the guys are upbeat about the occasion. We won a series last year against Zimbabwe, we won a few Test matches last year against numerous opposition. This is another opportunity for us to win a series,” the all-rounder said on the eve of the Test.
“We have two matches to close the series out. I would like ideally to close it out in this game but I've told the guys not to focus on the result.
“We need to focus on the process and focus on what we need to do to win the Test match, and that's individuals accepting their roles and performing — just carrying out their particular roles.
He added: “And if we string together that as a collective unit, then we'll get the results we're looking for.”
West Indies surprised many with their crushing win at Queen's Park Oval, outplaying Sri Lanka throughout. They chalked up an imposing first-innings total of 414 for eight declared and used aggressive fast bowling and then spin on Sunday's final day to bundle out the tourists twice cheaply.
The victory handed West Indies precious momentum, while putting immense pressure on Sri Lanka, who are yet to win a series in the Caribbean in three previous attempts.
Holder pointed out it was now important to keep the pressure on Sri Lanka with strong, consistent all-round cricket over the next few days.
“It is very good to start the series well. It's been a downfall of ours in the past not being able to start the series well and playing catch-up cricket,” Holder explained.
“But we're out front here in this series and it's just for us to try and keep our foot on the accelerator right now.
“The guys are pretty focused. I'm really pleased with the two days preparation that we've had and, all things going well, we just need to be consistent in all three departments and once we do that, we should beat Sri Lanka again.”
Neither team has been handed much time to regroup, with a quick turnaround time between the first two Tests. In the interim, the Sri Lankans have suffered two blows with Angelo Mathews returning home for personal reasons and fast bowler Lahiru Gamage forced out of the series with a fractured finger.
West Indies, in contrast, have no such concerns and Holder said their preparation revolved around light work, especially with the workload involved in the opening Test.
“[It was] not too intensive. It (training session) was mainly just to top up. The guys just stipulated to the coaches exactly what they wanted to do leading up to this second Test match,” Holder said.
“Obviously we had a reasonable workload in the first Test match, so it was basically trying to maintain the guys throughout the entire series.
“It is a quick turnaround between games and obviously we've got a quick turnaround between series against Bangladesh [next month]. All that must be taken into account. We just try to top up and get what we need out of the practice sessions.”
SQUAD: WEST INDIES — Jason Holder (captain), Shannon Gabriel, Shai Hope, Devendra Bishoo, Kraigg Brathwaite, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Miguel Cummins, Shimron Hetmyer, Kieran Powell, Kieran Roach, Jahmar Hamilton, Devon Smith.
SRI LANKA — Dinesh Chandimal (captain), Mahela Udawatte, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Janith Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Akila Dananjaya, Jeffrey Vandersay, Kasun Rajitha, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Asitha Fernando.