First Test against Sri Lanka Windies chase strong finish to mixed year
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West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite
West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite

GALLE, Sri Lanka, (CMC) – West Indies will hope to end the year the same manner in which they started, when they take on Sri Lanka in the first Test of the two-match series at Galle International Stadium here today.
The Caribbean side pulled off a stunning 2-0 series win away to Bangladesh last February but results since then have been mixed. They have only three wins in eight Tests this year, losing three and drawing two.

The drawn Tests came on Sri Lanka’s tour of the Caribbean last March and with only a single win since then, captain Kraigg Brathwaite said making a strong start to the series would be critical, especially where the batting was concerned.

“You have to get 20 wickets to win a game, and you know our bowling unit has really been leading this team for the last couple months,” Brathwaite told reporters on Saturday.
“I think what is key is to have a good start. I think for the top order it is going to be crucial getting those big partnerships early, and runs on the board are key especially in the subcontinent.

“So I think a good first innings total is key for us as a team for us to obviously put pressure on the opponents.”
West Indies hold unflattering memories of their last tour here five years ago when they lost both Tests heavily in less than five days.

They went down by 72 runs in the first Test at Colombo before tea on the final day, after the fourth day was completely lost to rain, and were then flogged by an innings and six runs with a session left on the penultimate day of the second Test.

Spin proved their undoing then, accounting for the bulk of the wickets to fall as West Indies passed 250 just once.
Though acknowledging pacers still had a role to play, Brathwaite conceded spinners would perhaps be the biggest threat, especially based on pitch conditions.

“The pitch looks spin-friendly [and is] obviously quite dry. I’m not saying the pacers won’t get wickets but the spinners know their role and the guys are looking forward to the challenge,” Brathwaite explained.

“You can’t premeditate that the pitch will spin. It looks quite dry, but I think it is important as a bowling unit we don’t think too far ahead. I think the key for us and what we discussed is that once we build the pressure with dot balls, those dot balls will bring the wickets.

“The spinners are excited for the challenge. It won’t be easy. Obviously, Sri Lanka they are at home and obviously their batsmen play spin well so you know it’s going to be a challenge. But the guys are really looking forward to it.

“And the [spinners] are looking forward to leading. If it is a [spinning pitch], the guys are looking forward to leading the attack,” he added.
West Indies have included three specialist spinners in their touring squad – left-arm spinners Veeerasammy Permaul and Jomel Warrican, along with off-spinner Rahkeem Cornwall.

Also included is off-spinner Roston Chase while Brathwaite also bowls occasional off-spin.
The match bowls off at 10 am (12:30 am Eastern Caribbean time).

SQUADS:
SRI LANKA – Dimuth Karunaratne (captain), Oshada Fernando, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Dhananjaya de Silva, Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka, Minod Bhanuka, Kamil Mishara, Roshane Silva, Ramesh Mendis, Chamika Karunaratne, Praveen Jayawickrema, Lasith Embuldeniya, Lakshan Sandakan, Suminda Lakshan, Suranga Lakmal, Vishwa Fernando, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara, Asitha Fernando, Chamika Gunasekera.
WEST INDIES – Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Joshua Da Silva, Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Kyle Mayers, Veerasammy Permaul, Kemar Roach, Jayden Seales, Jeremy Solozano, Jomel Warrican.

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