Australia set sights on record

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The Independent Online

No West Indies team visiting Australia - not even the mainly untested amateurs who first came 70 years ago to be thrashed 4-1 - has started a series so thoroughly discounted as that which takes the field for the first Test here tomorrow.

No West Indies team visiting Australia - not even the mainly untested amateurs who first came 70 years ago to be thrashed 4-1 - has started a series so thoroughly discounted as that which takes the field for the first Test here tomorrow.

There is an understandable reason. The West Indies have travelled so badly of late that they have lost 13 of their last 15 Tests away from home, an aversion confirmed by heavy defeats in their only two state matches on tour, to Western Australia by seven wickets and to Victoria by an innings within three days. Their confidence and self-esteem has been undermined, a situation compounded by the ruthless quality of the opposition.

The Australians, against whom the West Indies will contest five Tests over the coming six weeks, have established themselves as indisputably the strongest team in both forms of the game at present and carry an additional incentive into the match. The victory so widely regarded as a foregone conclusion would be their 11th in succession, equalling a record coincidentally established in 1984 by the West Indies at the height of their dominance under the captaincy of Clive Lloyd. Six of those 11 wins were over Australia.

The challenge of protecting that piece of history and the celebration of another cherished memory of West Indies cricket, the 40th anniversary of the tied Test between the teams at the same ground in 1960, may inspire Jimmy Adams and his team as much as it can intimidate them. They can hardly have missed the relevance ofeither for they have each featured prominently in the Australian media for days now.

If some players here, like so many of their generation, were unaware of the link between the Frank Worrell Trophy and the tied Test when Worrell was captain, the nostalgia generated in the press, radio and television and the presence in Brisbane of so many survivors of that unforgettable match and series has been a timely reminder of the legacy they are charged to maintain.

Steve Waugh, the Australian captain and one of the minority of cricketers steeped in the history of the game, has emphasised what matching and then surpassing the West Indies' winning streak would mean to him and his players. "The record is very important to us," he said. "It's our chance to go down in history. I take a lot of personal pride in the fact that we've got this far and to take that extra step would be outstanding."

Australia have surprisingly kept their pace quota down to just three, in spite of the loss yesterday of the injury-prone Jason Gillespie because of a strained hamstring muscle. Colin Miller, the one bowler in world cricket at present capable of delivering decent medium-pace swing or off-spin, has been released and the selectors have chosen the leg-spinner Stuart MacGill to balance the attack.

AUSTRALIA: S R Waugh (capt), M L Hayden, M J Slater, J L Langer, M E Waugh, R T Ponting, A C Gilchrist (wkt), B Lee, S C G MacGill, A J Bichel, G D McGrath.

WEST INDIES (from): J C Adams (capt), S L Campbell, D Ganga, W W Hinds, B C Lara, S Chanderpaul, R Sarwan, R D Jacobs (wkt), M Dillon, M I Black, N A M McLean, C A Walsh.

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