Harper confident despite disrupted preparation

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The Independent Online

Roger Harper, the West Indies coach, is refusing to dwell on his side's problematic build-up to the first Test with Sri Lanka.

The Windies' plans have been heavily disrupted by bad weather, with just 253.1 overs possible in their two three-day matches against Sri Lanka A. But with the opening Test due to begin here today, Harper said: "I don't think now's the time to be worried of being under-prepared for the Test series.

"We only had two-and-a-half days of match practice but we had as much coming out. We'll be ready as we can be for the start of the Test match.

"Even though we didn't get as much cricket in the middle as we would have liked, a number of batsmen got a few runs, the bowlers had a good run-out and we are pretty pleased with what transpired in the time we had in the middle."

There are three spinners in the Sri Lankan party and the hosts are hoping to take advantage of the West Indies' perceived weakness against quality spin bowling. However, the West Indies' manager Ricky Skerritt said: "We have some good spin bowlers in our side and they have been giving the batsmen a lot of practice in the nets because we expected Sri Lanka to base their attack on spin.

"We have two of the best players of spin bowling in our side, captain Carl Hooper and Brian Lara, and we have a well-balanced team. We have a lot of respect for the Sri Lankans, so we expect it be a very competitive series."

The West Indies have the fast bowler Colin Stuart available again after he suffered cramp last week, while the batsman Wavell Hinds is fit following surgery to a broken nose. Muttiah Muralitharan is set to line up for Sri Lanka after he was named in their 15-man squad yesterday. Muralitharan, the man of the series against India in September, had been struggling with a sore shoulder but now has the chance to add to his tally of 350 wickets in only 66 Test matches.

Sri Lanka, who have won the last three Tests to be staged at the Galle International stadium, also welcome back the left-arm seamer Nuwan Zoysa, who has recovered from an ankle stress fracture, and the batsman Russel Arnold, who was dropped for the last Test against Bangladesh.