Test cricket returns to the Caribbean this week, with the arrival of Sri Lanka for a intriguing series which pitches two inconsistent but improving sides together.
At the time of going to press, it is somewhat unclear whether this will be a two or three match series. Originally scheduled for three, with the final match slated to be a day/night affair at Bridgetown’s storied Kensington Oval, there has been much speculation that one Test may be shelved or converted into an ODI in a cost cutting measure aimed at helping the cash-strapped Cricket West Indies governing body.
For now, we’ll assume it stays as planned, with the first Test starting on Wednesday June 6th at Trinidad’s Queen’s Park Oval, and followed up by a visit to the Daren Sammy Cricket Stadium in Gros Islet, St Lucia before the pink ball match up in Barbados finishes things off.
Both sides have shown sparks of recovery in the longest format over the last 12 months or so. The hosts have been in the doldrums for many years in Test cricket, riven by player strikes and at best baffling management by the governing body, but in recent times they have won a series in Zimbabwe and won individual tests against both England and Pakistan away from home under the leadership of young all-rounder captain Jason Holder.
The visitors meanwhile have won series in Bangladesh and in the UAE against Pakistan, with a loss to India in between. The Sri Lankans are the higher-ranked side (6th to the Windies 9th) and may well find the slow wickets in the Caribbean to their taste.
The Sri Lankans have had injury worries ahead of the tour, with opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratane and fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera out injured. Their squad contains as many as four uncapped players as a result – bowlers Asitha Fernando, Kasun Rajitha and Jeffrey Vandersay plus batsman Mahela Udawatte.
The hosts meanwhile have recalled Devon Smith after a Test absence of three years, and may hand a debut to 20yr old Anguillan keeper-batsman Jahmar Hamilton.
From a personal player perspective there are a few milestones to watch out for as the series unfolds:
Kemar Roach (West Indies)
Fast bowler Roach is enjoyinga bit of a renaissance of late, and needs just three wickets to bring up 150 in Tests.
Kraigg Brathwaite (West Indies)
The opening batsman needs just 80 runs to mark 3,000 in Tests.
Angelo Mathews (Sri Lanka)
Former captain Mathews currenty has 4,914 career Test runs in his ledger, needing 86 more to reach 5,000. If he can manage 190 runs in the series, he will move past Sri Lankan legend Arjuna Ranatunga into 8th place for his country.
Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka)
The ageless spinner Herath’s 415 Test wickets see him in 12th place in the world all-time – having been overhauled by England’s Stuart Broad this week. Broad and Harbajhan Singh share tenth place on 417, with South Africans Shaun Pollock and Dale Steyn in 8th and 9th on 421 and 419 respectively. Rangana will have all in his sights!