First Test Preview: West Indies v Australia


While the teams were very evenly matched in the short formats of the game, the time has come for a team on the rise and a team in a rebuilding phase to lock horns as Australia take on West Indies in the first of three Tests for The Frank Worrell Trophy.

While the teams were very evenly matched in the short formats of the game, the time has come for a team on the rise and a team in a rebuilding phase to lock horns as Australia take on West Indies in the first of three Tests for The Frank Worrell Trophy.

After a successful 4-0 whitewash of India in the Australian summer, the tourists now have a chance to show that they are able to compete away from home and not just in front of their home crowd where bouncy fast bowler-friendly wickets are the order of the day.

It will be a tough overseas outing for a number of Australia's youngsters; none more so than for opening pair David Warner and Ed Cowan, although Cowan could find himself left out of the squad in favour of the returning Shane Watson, with Peter Forrest earning a debut at number six. Alternatively, the selectors have hinted that Watson – who missed the entire Indian series – could be used as a number three batsman which would shift the middle order of Michael Clarke, Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey down one place.

There is a guarantee that this Australian side will contain at least one debutant as neither wicketkeeper Matthew Wade and Peter Nevill have had the honour of donning the Baggy Green. Wade is the frontrunner after performing admirably in the one-day team following the axeing of Brad Haddin and a good performance here could make Wade the long-term glove man for Australia in all three forms of the game.

Haddin's situation proved confusing for many, including himself, as he was originally 'rested' for the Commonwealth Bank ODI Tri-Series down under, but he himself admitted it felt like he was dropped. Admittedly, the veteran had been struggling for form in the Test series' against South Africa, New Zealand and India. He was then restored to the Test team for this tour, but after jetting into the Caribbean, returned home citing family reasons for his departure.

One thing this Australian team is not short on is bowling options. James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus are the favourites for the fast bowler slots, while Ryan Harris could also push his way back into the side. Not to mention left-armer Mitchell Starc who also showed good form against the Indians.

But Caribbean wickets are traditionally slower, and with a Barbados wicket likely to be no different, there could only be place for two quicks alongside spin duo Nathan Lyon and Michael Beer. In that scenario there could be plenty more overs required from all-rounder Watson whose medium pacers proved effective on tour thus far.

West Indies, by contrast, seem to be a side constantly in a phase of rebuilding with players coming in and out the squad at will. In the last Test against Australia in December 2009 only Ravi Rampaul, Narsingh Deonarine and Kemar Roach were in the XI which lost in Perth, and neither of the latter two are certainties for this match.

Darren Sammy has a tough task to lift the Test side which lost 2-0 to an Indian side which was whitewashed by Australia thereafter.

Up front there is a settled opening combination of Adrian Barath and Kraigg Brathwaite, while new vice-captain Kirk Edwards has an admirable record having scored two hundreds and three fifties in his six-Test career. A lot will be depending on the experience of Shivnarine Chanderpaul as usual, while after failing in the ODI and Twenty20 series, Darren Bravo has another chance to build on his blossoming Test career. This series could be one to dispel, or further enhance, the comparisons between himself and cousin Brian Lara.

With Marlon Samuels choosing the glitz of the Indian Premier League, the number six position is up for grabs with the recalled Narsingh Deonarine challengin Kieran Powell for the place. However, coach Ottis Gibson has already admitted that Deonarine's fitness is still a contentious issue, making young Powell the frontrunner.

Fidel Edwards has chosen country over IPL while Ravi Rampaul and Devendra Bishoo are the other bowling options along with Sammy. Kemar Roach will, however, also be pushing for a recall with Edwards feeling the pressure.

<b>Key Men</b><br><i>West Indies:</i> Australia had one three-day match in which to test themselves ahead of the Test series and while it was an easy victory for the tourists, it exposed a weakness in their batting lineup against the spinners. Inexperienced duo Nkrumah Bonner and Ryan Austin enjoyed success against the visitors which bodes well for the incumbent West Indies slow bowler <b>Devendra Bishoo</b>. While Bishoo has only played ten Tests to date, he's been tipped as the long-term spin option and has enjoyed success in the home series against India last year.

<i>Australia:</i> He's no longer part of the one-day setup and no longer the captain in any form of the game, but <b>Ricky Ponting</b> remains a vital member of the Australian batting lineup. He's scored 422 runs at an average of 140.66 this year and is second only to his captain, <b>Michael Clarke</b> who comes into the series having scored 594 runs for the year at 198 apiece. Last time Australia toured the Caribbean, Ponting averaged 53.83 with the bat and Clarke 56, which means these are again two key wickets which the Windies attack will need to grab early or they could face huge totals mounting up against them.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><BR>May 30-Jun 3, 2008: Second Test: Match drawn in North Sound<br>June 2008: Third Test: Australia won by 87 runs in Bridgetown<br>November 2009: First Test: Australia won by an innings and 65 runs in Brisbane<br>December 2009: Second Test: Match drawn in Adelaide<br>December 2009: Third Test: Australia won by 35 runs in Perth.

<b>Prediction</b><BR> There's been nothing separating the teams in the shorter formats this series, but with Australia having lost only one Test out of 19 to West Indies since 1999, it's going to be tough for the home side to even take this match to five days.

Online betting firm <a href='' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><B>Sky Bet</B></a> has West Indies at 4/1 in the <a href='' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><B>betting</B></a> for victory in the First Test. Visit Sky Bet for the latest cricket betting.

<b>Probable Teams</b><br><i>West Indies:</i> Darren Sammy (captain), Adrian Barath, Kraigg Brathwaite, Kirk Edwards (vice-captain), Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Kieran Powell/Narsingh Deonarine, Carlton Baugh (wicketkeeper), Ravi Rampaul, Fidel Edwards, Devendra Bishoo.

<i>Australia:</i> Michael Clarke (captain), David Warner, Ed Cowan, Shane Watson (vice-captain), Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Matthew Wade (wicketkeeper), James Pattinson/Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle/Michael Beer, Nathan Lyon, Ben Hilfenhaus.

<b>Dates:</b> 7-11 April <br><b>Morning session:</b> 10:00 – 12:00 (14:00 – 16:00 GMT)<br><b>Afternoon session:</b> 12:40- 14:40 (16: