| Sri Lankan team members inspect the pitch at Beausejour Stadium in Gros Islet, St Lucia, on Wednesday. The visitors take on the West Indies in the first match of a two-Test series from Friday. (AP)
Gros Islet (St Lucia): Brian Lara and Muttiah Muralidharan will renew their battle at a new Test venue when the West Indies clash with Sri Lanka in the opening match at the Beausejour Stadium on Friday.
The two were involved in a mouth-watering duel in Sri Lanka two years ago, when Lara managed to solve the Muralidharan puzzle by notching up 688 runs in three Tests.
The gifted left-hander became the second-highest scorer in a three-match series after Englishman Graham Gooch, who amassed 752 against India in 1990.
Lara’s heroics, however, failed to stop a Muralidharan-inspired Sri Lanka from completing their maiden whitewash.
Lara has already won the first round against the off spinner as he scored a half-century in the opening one-dayer and followed it up with a hundred in the second in Barbados during a recent three-match series, won 2-1 by Sri Lanka.
“Lara has been in very good form and we’ll have to find ways to stop him,” said Muralidharan, who has so far taken 450 wickets in 80 Tests.
Muralidharan said he was looking forward to bowling against Lara and keen to win the duel.
“It’s a challenge to bowl to him because he reads the spin better than any other batsman and he’s willing to play strokes. He’s a great batsman, but I want to win the battle.”
Lara denied that the West Indies were a one-batsman team, saying they had talented players in Ramnaresh Sarwan, Wavell Hinds and Marlon Samuels.
Lara expected consistency from his young team in a bid to clinch the first Test series during his second stint as captain.
The West Indies’ bowling lacks experience. Mervyn Dillon is the only veteran in the pace attack picked for the match. Vasbert Drakes has played just six Tests, Corey Collymore one and Jerome Taylor none.
If Sri Lanka win the two-Test series against the West Indies, they could climb to third place in the ICC’s Test championship table.
A 2-0 victory for Sri Lanka would boost their rating to 103, equal on points with New Zealand but ahead by virtue of more matches played, the sport’s governing body said.
However, Sri Lanka have never won a Test match on Caribbean soil. Their two previous Tests in the West Indies in June 1997 resulted in a defeat and a draw.
West Indies (from): Brian Lara, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Omari Banks, Carlton Baugh, Corey Collymore, Mervyn Dillon, Vasbert Drakes, Daren Ganga, Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Ridley Jacobs, Marlon Samuels, Devon Smith, Jerome Taylor.
Sri Lanka (from): Hashan Tillekeratne, Maravan Atapattu, Mahela Jayawardene, Sanath Jayasuriya, Romesh Kaluwitharana, Kumara Sangakkara, Tillekeratne Dilshan, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralidharan, Thilan Samaraweera, Kaushal Lokuarachchi, Kumar Dharmasena, Prabath Nissanka, Darshana Gamage, Dinusha Fernando, Thilan Thushara.