West Indies and Australia commence a five-match T20I series on Friday under lights at the Daren Sammy Stadium in St Lucia, with both teams in pursuit of a winning momentum as the countdown to the T20 World Cup continues.
Title-holders for the global tournament set for October-November in the United Arab Emirates, the Caribbean side started a home run of 15 T20Is with a 3-2 loss to South Africa in Grenada.
That highlighted their continuing challenges of coping with high-quality spin bowling while conceding a high proportion of scoreless deliveries in their five innings.
This series will be followed by three ODIs against the Aussies in Barbados, after which Pakistan come to the region for another five-match T20I series, also to be played in Bridgetown.
For Australia, whose best effort in the T20 World Cup was as beaten finalists to England in the 2010 event in the West Indies, this assignment follows consecutive narrow series losses in England, at home to India and in New Zealand.
That last campaign was almost five months ago and with the visitors missing a number of key performers such as David Warner, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell and Pat Cummins, this series represents an ideal opportunity for some of the fringe players to make a strong claim for inclusion in the T20 World Cup squad.
Those seeking to make an impression include all-rounder Dan Christian, who was among the runs with a score of 47 in an intra-squad warm-up fixture at the match venue on Monday.
“Everyone had a good hit, bowlers had a good bowl and we got to see what conditions will be like, so all in all a pretty successful night,” was Christian’s assessment of the workout ahead of what is expected to be his first appearance in national colours for four years.
Should the pitches for the five matches behave similarly as for that warm-up hit-out, then the West Indies can expect to face another searching examination of the adaptability of their batsmen who failed on three occasions against South Africa to reach targets just below 170.
That series reinforced shortcomings in the home side, which head coach Phil Simmons hopes can be corrected in the coming days.
“We’ve got to think a little bit more. We’ve got to be smarter in our cricket – smarter especially in that seven-to-14-over period,” said Simmons.
West Indies are expected to stick with the nucleus of the squad which faced the South Africans while the Australians’ biggest challenge appears to be establishing a settled middle order given the absence of so many regular names.
With the series being played in the one of the rainiest months of the year in the Caribbean, there is no guarantee that the matches will not be significantly impacted by the elements.
However, both teams remain hopeful of getting enough action to assist in formulating their T20 World Cup squads three months away from the main event.
West Indies – Kieron Pollard (c), Evin Lewis, Lendl Simmons, Andre Fletcher, Nicholas Pooran, Andre Russell, Jason Holder, Dwayne Bravo, Obed McCoy, Fidel Edwards, Kevin Sinclair.
Australia – Aaron Finch (c), Josh Philippe, Matthew Wade (wk), Ashton Turner, Dan Christian, Moises Henriques, Mitchell Marsh, Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood.
© Agence France-Presse