| Brian Lara at the team’s workout Friday. (Reuters)
Port-of-Spain: Steve Waugh’s Australians will retain the Frank Worrell Trophy if they win the second Test against the West Indies starting at Queen’s Park Oval here Saturday.
Australia conquered the West Indies by nine wickets inside four days in the opening Georgetown Test five days ago and can defend the trophy by winning here to take an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the four-match series.
The pressure is on Brian Lara’s team to take away the initiative from the Australians on a Port-of-Spain pitch which is grassier than the lifeless one provided at Bourda.
Australia have stayed true to their winning line-up, meaning that the tourists will again field five specialist bowlers to force a win.
“I’m not at all concerned about our batting. If we don’t get enough runs with that order, I don’t think it’s anything to do with the make-up of the order, it’s just the guys haven’t done the job,” Waugh said.
“We’ve got Adam Gilchrist at six, who averages 59 in Test cricket. That’s pretty good. I’m confident in Brad Hogg, Andy Bichel, who’s much improved, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie — they’re four very good lower-order batsmen. And five bowlers obviously gives you options.”
The Windies have a strengthened batting line-up with the return of vice-captain Ramnaresh Sarwan from a finger injury, while wicketkeeper-batsman Carlton Baugh and off-spinner Omari Banks are vying for their Test debut.
Tino Best, leading wicket-taker in the Caribbean domestic competition this season, has come into the 13-man squad as a replacement for Jermaine Lawson who has chicken pox.
Lara is confident his young team can rebound from the crushing defeat and level the series. “Before the series began I said I wanted us to compete and we did that in Guyana, when we lost because of the first session on the first day,” he said.
“In Trinidad, we expect to go the distance. We want to play good cricket and compete and if we can do that and get a bit of luck, I think there’s a good possibility we can win the Test.
“I know we lost the first match but we came out with three centuries and a lot of positive things. The team is still fresh, mentally strong and looking forward to the challenge.”
Australia have won their last seven Tests against the West Indies since winning the fourth Test in Antigua to draw the last series 2-2 in 1999.
The West Indies’ task will be to take 20 wickets. It was beyond them in Georgetown but the inclusion of 21-year-old Banks from the tiny Leeward Islands offers the home side a spinning option which they did not have in Georgetown.
Lara will be playing before his adoring home audience in this Test and gets his chance to firmly make his mark on the Port-of-Spain Test in a bid to keep the series alive to the third match in Barbados (May 1-5).
Head groundsman Curtis Roberts said he has prepared a testing track. ”It will be very competitive. It will be very challenging for the batsmen,” he said.
Australia: Steve Waugh (captain), Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting, Darren Lehmann, Adam Gilchrist, Brad Hogg, Andrew Bichel, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Stuart MacGill. 12th man: Martin Love.
West Indies (from): Brian Lara (captain), Wavell Hinds, Devon Smith, Darren Ganga, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Marlon Samuels, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Carlton Baugh, Omari Banks, Vasbert Drakes, Mervyn Dillon, Pedro Collins, Tino Banks.
Umpires: Rudi Koertzen, Asoka de Silva.