Lara's wayward bowlers give cause for concern

West Indies 324-7 dec
Sri Lanka A 271-6

The preparation of Brian Lara's West Indies side for Thursday's first Test against England has been far more geared to the challenges that lie ahead than those of their hosts.

The preparation of Brian Lara's West Indies side for Thursday's first Test against England has been far more geared to the challenges that lie ahead than those of their hosts. While England's finest have been attempting to find Test form hacking the ball to all parts of county grounds in the Twenty20 Cup the tourists have been acclimatising to English conditions at two of its most delightful grounds.

But despite winning the first three-day game of their tour at Arundel by 29 runs, and posting the highest first-class score at Shenley, the West Indies are yet to convince. Ridley Jacobs and Omari Banks, with a swashbuckling stand of 183, highlighted the batting resources available to Lara but once Ramnaresh Sarwan - the acting captain - declared his team's innings closed on 534 for 6 the more vulnerable part of the visitors' game was exposed.

Sri Lanka A are a capable side. They have won all seven of their one-day matches - six against counties - on their five week tour of England, but the confident way in which their batsmen went after Sarwan's bowlers will have caused the West Indies concern. Their attack, led by Tino Best, conceded almost five runs an over, a run-rate that is far too high for a team hoping to regain the Wisden Trophy.

Best, Fidel Edwards and Jermaine Lawson are probably competing for two places at Lord's and each bowled with pace. But on an excellent batting pitch the good deliveries were surrounded by too many that were wild and wayward. Ian Daniel, an exciting young batsman from Colombo, made the most of the erratic fare being sent down and struck 12 boundaries in his 86 ball innings of 72.

It was Edwards who dismissed the right-hander when he clipped one to Dwayne Bravo at square-leg. It proved to be the Bajan's only success on an afternoon where he conceded 82 runs in 10 overs. In the hope that he would suddenly find a good rhythm Sarwan continued to use Edwards but this display may well have cost him his place in the Test side.

Bravo did his chances no harm when he dismissed Shanta Kalavitigoda with his third ball. The all-rounder has developed the happy knack of breaking partnerships in his first over and this wicket, along with a fine innings of 118 on Saturday, should gain him selection ahead of Dwayne Smith.

While the bowling remains a worry, the West Indies will be delighted with their batsmen. At Arundel Chris Gayle and Lara scored centuries and here in Hertfordshire three more have posted hundreds. The century of Sylvester Joseph highlighted his potential but Lara, resting on the side-lines before drifting off to Porters Park Golf Club for 18 holes in the afternoon, would have enjoyed the composed way in which Jacobs scored his runs.

Jacobs is an ugly batsman to watch but one of Lara's most reliable players. Indeed, when the West Indies captain scored 400 against England in Antigua it was Jacobs who spent the most time by his side. In that match the pair added 282 runs for the sixth wicket.

Banks was on the verge of becoming the sixth member of the squad to reach three figures but went for one shot too many and top-edged a hook. His innings of 90 came off 85 balls and entertained the small crowd. The Anguillan took a liking to the spin of Suraj Mohammed, who he struck for three sixes and two fours in five consecutive balls. He later took three Sri Lankan wickets to complete a satisfying day.

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