West Indies vs Sri Lanka 1st Test Preview: Windies start slight favourites in home conditions under new captain Brathwaite
West Indies recently swept Sri Lanka in the 3-match ODI series on the back of winning the T20Is. Coupled with home advantage and recent form, the hosts start favourites for the test series as well.
Chase, de Silva, Embuldeniya star in practice match
There has been a gap of a week between the last ODI and the first day of the first test match. In this duration, Sri Lanka have played a two-day practice match against West Indies cricket Board President's XI. While Sri Lanka were at full strength, the West Indies Board President's XI also included some players part of the West Indies starting XI in test cricket like Darren Bravo, Kyle Mayers, Sharmarh Brooks and Roston Chase.
Shai Hope, who did well in the ODI series but is currently not part of West Indies' plans in test cricket was also part of the match and batted well.
Sri Lanka did not have a great outing and were bowled out for just 172 in the first innings of the match with Oshada Fernando and Dinesh Chandimal scoring 40s. Dhananjaya de Silva and Lasith Embuldeniya were the top bowlers for Sri Lanka, picking up three wickets each.
For Westindies Kyle Mayers and Roston Chase struck half centuries. All-rounder Chase also picked up four wickets while Kemar Roach bagged two.
Dukes ball, seasoned quicks hand hosts advantage
That the matches will be played with the Dukes ball will give a big advantage to West Indies bowlers who are adept at swinging the red cherry. Particularly, Kemar Roach would be a handful for the Sri Lankan batsmen first up.
Likewise, the pace and bounce that Shannon Gabriel extracts will also not be easy to handle for the Sri Lankan batsmen.
West Indies in good form
West Indies will be high on confidence after winning their two-match test series against Bangladesh recently by 2-0 despite the absence of several of their leading players. The team won the first match by three wickets, courtesy of a brilliant double century by Kyle Mayers on debut, who will hope to carry on his good run.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have lost each of their last four test matches, suffering massive defeats by an innings and 45 runs and 10 wickets on their tour of South Africa and then losing to England by 7 wickets and 6 wickets in the two test matches at home.
Brathwaite takes over from Holder
It is the beginning of a new era in West Indian cricket as Kraigg Brathwaite has been handed the captaincy of the West Indies test team permanently. At the same time, Jason holder continues to be the part of the side and will be a crucial player for them, both with bat and ball. Holder now has the opportunity to focus on his game without the burden of captaincy.
Brathwaite, who led West Indies to victories in the last two test matches against Bangladesh, has an uphill task ahead of him. He has only won two out of the seven test matches in which he has captained.
With the bat as well, Brathwaite's returns have been on a decline. In 2020, he averaged 23.10 while his averages in 2019 and 2018 read 16.81 and 24.43 respectively. Moreover, as captain, he averages only 24.64 vis-a-vis his batting average of 34.16 when the responsibility is not on the shoulders.
It will be interesting to see how the new responsibility sits on his shoulders and whether or not he is able to rally his troops.
SL welcome back Dimuth Karunaratne and Dhananjaya de Silva
While the Sri Lankan XI will be restrengthened with the return of Dimuth Karunaratne and Dhananjaya de Silva, they will sorely miss Angelo Mathews' presence.
Sri Lanka will go in with Dimuth Karunaratne, Lahiru Thirimanne and Oshada Fernando as their top three with Dinesh Chandimal, Pathum Nissanka and Dhananjaya de Silva, in the middle order.
Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Embuldeniya, Dushmantha Chameera and Vishwa Fernando will be their leading bowlers. The quartet will have the company of Dhananjaya de Silva's off spin.
Here's the probable playing XI of both teams:
West Indies - Kraigg Brathwaite (c), John Campbell, Darren Bravo/Nkrumah Bonner, Kyle Mayer, Jermaine Blackwood, Joshua da Silva (wk), Jason Holder, Rahkeem Cornwall, Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel
Sri Lanka - Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Lahiru Thirimanne, Oshada Fernando, Dinesh Chandimal, Pathum Nissanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Embuldeniya, Dushmantha Chameera, Vishwa Fernando
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