WI look to level series
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CMC):With West Indies desperately needing a change in fortunes in order to win the final Test against South Africa starting here today, the spotlight has fallen on the side's lower order.
The tourists enter the contest at Newlands trailing 1-0 in the three-Test series following a heavy innings and 220-run loss at Centurion and a rain-affected draw in Port Elizabeth earlier this week.
In the opening Test, the Windies batting was abysmal, but 22-year-old opener Kraigg Brathwaite and seasoned campaigner Marlon Samuels restored some sense of pride in the second Test when they fashioned high-quality hundreds.
Even then, they collapsed from 231 for two during the second session on the penultimate day, to 275 for nine, when rain forced an early close.
Captain Denesh Ramdin said his team was aware that the lower order needed to contribute more and was focussed on doing this over the next five days.
"Marlon Samuels and Kraigg Brathwaite, the way they batted and the partnership, we're extremely happy with the way they went about it," Ramdin told reporters here on New Year's Day.
"The South African bowlers bowled really well and they coped with it. We're disappointed in the lower order that they did not capitalise on that start. But having said that, we improved from our first game going into the second, so hopefully we can take from the second going into the third. It's a new year, so hopefully we can change some things."
Ramdin is one of the culprits. He's managed just 38 runs in three innings on tour and 43 in his last five innings. In his first series as skipper against New Zealand last June, he was guilty of getting starts but failing to carry on.
SHORT OF RUNS
Veteran left-hander Shiv Chanderpaul is also short of runs. He failed to score in the tour match and has since scraped together 32 runs from three innings in the last two Tests.
Ramdin conceded that both he and Chanderpaul were under the microscope, but stressed they would not be pressuring themselves.
"Our (team) confidence is building at the moment. We had a very slow start to the tour, so hopefully we can continue to build that momentum," he said.
Overall, the Windies batting remains a big problem, especially the startling manner of their collapses. In Centurion, they were cruising at 162 for three in their first innings and were bowled out for 201.
In the second innings, they were on 87 for two and crashed to 131 all out.
There was no change in Port Elizabeth, as they lost seven wickets for 44 runs late on the fourth day to squander a position of strength.
"We've assessed that (collapses) and we had a bit of a chat about it, in terms of guys getting out and a couple wickets falling," Ramdin explained.
"We always need someone at the crease to guide the new batter who is coming in and to share what's happening. It's always difficult to move on when there are two new batters there, it gives the opposition an upper hand on you."
SQUAD - Denesh Ramdin (captain), Kraigg Brathwaite, Devon Smith, Marlon Samuels, Leon Johnson, Shiv Chanderpaul, Jermaine Blackwood, Jason Holder, Jerome Taylor, Kenroy Peters, Sheldon Cottrell, Shannon Gabriel, Chadwick Walton, Sulieman Benn.