Kieron Pollard will lead a powerful TT Red Force squad when the CG Insurance Super50 Cup bowls off in Antigua and Barbuda from February 7-27.

Pollard heads a seasoned squad of players that include the likes of Evin Lewis, Lendl Simmons and the hard-hitting Nicholas Pooran. Darren Bravo, who will form part of the strong squad will also serve as vice-captain for the team that were semi-finalists last time out.

The T&T selectors have also picked the experienced Jason Mohammed, who is on West Indies duty in Bangladesh as well as former West Indies representatives Sunil Narine, Denesh Ramdin and Ravi Rampaul.

Imran Khan, Akeal Hosein, opener Kjorn Ottley, Khary Pierre, Anderson Phillip and Jayden Seales are also in line to represent the team from the twin-island republic that on paper should start as favourites to win the shortened version of the competition in 2021.

The full squad reads: Kieron Pollard (captain), Darren Bravo (vice-captain), Evin Lewis, Lendl Simmons, Jason Mohammed, Nicholas Pooran, Sunil Narine, Denesh Ramdin, Imran Khan, Akeal Hosein, Ravi Rampaul, Jayden Seales, Kjorn Ottley, Anderson Phillip, Khary Pierre.

England may not have had their usual level of support on hand to witness their Test victory in Galle, but Joe Root still took the time to thank one touring fan for his dedication to the cause. 

Rob Lewis had travelled to Sri Lanka in March 2020 to watch Root's side in action, only for that series to be cancelled at short notice due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

However, rather than return home, Lewis opted to stay put, a decision he made in the hope the abandoned series would be completed at a later date. 

"I thought, 'Oh, this coronavirus will be a month. I'll stay in for that month and then see what happens'. But it rumbled on... there's never been a point where I thought I should go home," he explained in an interview with The Times.

So, while the Barmy Army were unable to attend in their typically high numbers due to travel restrictions amid the continued global health crisis, there was still one visiting spectator there to witness England's seven-wicket triumph in the first of two Tests on the rearranged trip. 

Root had acknowledged Lewis – watching the action unfold from the famous Galle Fort that overlooks the cricket ground – when reaching his double century on day three, and he went one step further after the game had come to a conclusion.

Having completed his media duties, the England skipper put in a phone call to thank Lewis personally, as shown by the team's official Twitter account. 

"We really appreciate your support. It's an incredible story and journey that you've been on over the last year or so," Root said during the conversation. 

"So, more than anything, I just wanted to say a massive thank you. We really appreciate you being here and making the effort to come down and support us. 

"It's a real pleasure for us to be able to enjoy this with you, so thank you very much."

England have now won four successive overseas Tests for the first time since 1957, while Root has posted 24 victories during his captaincy reign, leaving only two behind Michael Vaughan's all-time team record. 

Lewis is seemingly set to stick around a little longer for the second match in the series, with the second Test starting on Friday at the same venue. 

Joe Root praised the character shown by his bowling attack – particularly spinners Dom Bess and Jack Leach – but hopes England can still get better after securing victory over Sri Lanka in Galle.

England had suffered an early wobble when chasing just 74 in the fourth innings of the first Test, slipping to 14-3 at one stage. 

However, resuming the fifth day needing a further 36, they reached their nominal target without any further losses, Jonny Bairstow and Dan Lawrence guiding them home with an unbroken stand of 62. 

Bess and Leach had laid the foundations with five-wicket hauls in the contest, as England clinched a fourth successive Test triumph overseas – their best run in the format since 1957.

"To come here with the little preparation we've had, and play in the manner that we have throughout this game, has been really impressive," Root said at the presentation ceremony. 

"I thought it was a great effort yesterday (on day four). Not a lot fell for us but we worked extremely hard.

"For the two spinners to come out of the game with five-fors is a brilliant effort, especially with such little cricket that they have played coming into a series like this when the pressure is on. 

"It's always tough, but without preparation it is a testament to their characters. The whole bowling group in general, to perform like we did after lunch (on day four) in particular, was a really good effort. 

"It's a good start to the tour, but we know that we've got to keep getting better – and we will keep looking to do that. But I'm really pleased with the start that we've had." 

Root was unsurprisingly named man of the match following his double century in England's first innings, having failed to reach three figures in Test action in 2020. 

"The exciting thing, I think, is that there's still more to come from the group," he added. "The most important thing is we have that attitude during this winter tour and going into the next Test match." 

Stand-in Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal, deputising in the absence of the injured Dimuth Karunaratne, admitted the hosts simply left themselves with too much to do after they were bowled out for just 135 after winning the toss on day one. 

Lahiru Thirimanne made a hundred in Sri Lanka's second innings and while Kusal Perera and Angelo Mathews also weighed in with half-centuries, their spinners did not have enough runs to work with on a dry, turning pitch. 

"I think it was a crucial toss to win, but the first innings cost us the game," Chandimal said. "You have to get a big total in the first innings, so that cost us on this kind of track.  

"Credit to Thirimanne, Angelo, Kusal, everyone did their bit as a batting unit in the second innings. Another 70-80 runs it could have been a different story." 

Sri Lanka will have the chance to draw level in the second and final Test of the series, which begins on Friday at the same venue.

Australia face a race against time to win the fourth Test and reclaim the Border-Gavaskar trophy from India after rain wreaked havoc on day four in Brisbane.

Tim Paine's Australia batted for most of Monday and set India 328 for victory in the series decider after the hosts were bowled out for 294 midway through an extended final session.

India were 4-0 when the covers were brought out at 16:35 local time and stayed on at the Gabba, where the tourists require 324 more runs to win but only need a draw to retain the Border-Gavaskar crown, with the series deadlocked.

Australia resumed on 21-0 before Mohammed Siraj – who claimed his maiden five-for – spearheaded a chaotic collapse after the home team lost 34-4 in the morning session.

Openers Marcus Harris (38) and David Warner (48) fell victim to Shardul Thakur (4-61) and Washington Sundar (1-80) respectively, before Siraj stole the show by dismissing Marnus Labuschagne (25) and Matthew Wade (0) within three deliveries – leaving Australia 123-4.

After dropping Steve Smith on 42 and Cameron Green on 14, Siraj held his nerve to claim the prized scalp of the former Australia skipper for 55.

Green (37) did not last much longer as Thakur also sent Paine (27) back to the pavilion, with the Australians 242-7.

After umpires brought the tea break forward due to wet weather, Australia's tail tried to add to the total – Pat Cummins' unbeaten 28 and a quick-fire 13 from spinner Nathan Lyon aiding their cause.

India pair Rohit Sharma (4 not out) and Shubman Gill (0) will return to the crease as the thrilling series heads for a draw.

 

Siraj celebrates maiden five-for

It was a day to remember for Siraj, who broke through for his first five-wicket haul in Test cricket.

After making his Test debut on Boxing Day in Melbourne, the 26-year-old has made an immediate impact for the touring side.

All eyes on Paine

Has Paine given Australia enough time to win and reclaim the Border-Gavaskar trophy? With wet weather in Brisbane, his decision to bat for much of the penultimate day before being bowled out has raised questions.

More rain is forecast for Tuesday.

England wrapped up a seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the first Test in Galle on Monday.

Jonny Bairstow (35 not out) and Dan Lawrence (unbeaten 21) saw the tourists past their target of 74 early on day five after a brief top-order scare on Sunday.

The victory saw England extend their unbeaten streak against Sri Lanka in Tests to seven matches (W6 D1).

It was a win set up by Dom Bess' five-for in the first innings and Joe Root's 228, while Jack Leach took 5-122 in the second innings.

Lawrence survived a couple of lbw shouts on the final day, including a review, but his unbroken 62-run fourth-wicket stand with Bairstow saw England to victory.

The second and final Test begins on Friday.

Darren Sammy is looking to enjoy the sweet smell of success in the near future following the signing of a new licensing agreement with Asgharali, a Bahrain-based fragrance company that has been in operation for more than 100 years.

England lost early wickets in their run chase but remain on course for victory in the first Test against Sri Lanka, finishing day four on 38-3 in pursuit of a target of 74. 

Having battled hard to make 359 all out in their second innings, Sri Lanka gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Lasith Embuldeniya quickly removed England openers Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley. 

The run out of captain Joe Root, who was called through for a single that was never on before falling over as he dived to unsuccessfully make his ground, left the tourists teetering at 20-3. 

However, Jonny Bairstow and Dan Lawrence steadied the nerves, seeing England through to stumps without any further setbacks. The duo will resume on day five needing a further 36 to seal the series opener. 

Sri Lanka will be left cursing their first-innings shortcomings with the bat, particularly after a second Test hundred from Lahiru Thirimanne underpinned a far-improved display second time around. 

England did remove nightwatchman Embuldeniya early but were made to work hard for wickets after that, Jack Leach the pick of the attack as he finished with figures of 5-122. 

Sam Curran eventually ended Thirimanne's defiance when the opener had 111 to his name, while the hosts were still in deficit when stand-in captain Dinesh Chandimal edged Dom Bess (3-100) to Root at first slip.  

The same bowler accounted for Niroshan Dickwella, who made 29, but Angelo Mathews proved to be a familiar thorn in England's side. 

Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler secured his first stumping in Test cricket as some smart glovework ended a lively cameo from Dilruwan Perera (24), while Mathews was the last man out midway through the final session.  

The former Sri Lanka skipper had battled for nearly six hours before Leach tempted him into a leaden-footed drive, ending his resistance on 71. England appeared frenetic at the start of their chase on a dry, turning surface, but will still be confident of completing the job on Monday.


TON-DERFUL MOMENT FOR THIRIMANNE

Thirimanne's previous Test century also came at the same venue; he made 155 not out against Bangladesh back in March 2013. The left-handed opener may not have featured in this match had captain Dimuth Karunaratne not been ruled out with a fractured thumb, but he seized his opportunity.

In total, he faced 251 deliveries and hit 12 boundaries, helping at least restore some pride for Sri Lanka after they had been dismissed for 135 on a dismal opening day.

LEACH STICKS TO HIS TASK

Leach had not played in a Test since November 2019, since when an illness and the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted him to just two first-class appearances. The left-arm spinner could be forgiven for a little rustiness, then.

However, he stuck manfully to his task during the innings, sending down 41.5 overs to claim his second five-wicket haul in Tests. His other also came against Sri Lanka, at Pallekele back in November 2018.
 

Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar halted Australia's momentum before India were bowled out for 336 on a frustrating day for the hosts in the fourth Test at the Gabba.

Australia appeared on track to clean up India's batting line-up and maintain a healthy lead on day three of the final match after leaving the tourists in a perilous position of 186-6, but unheralded pair Shardul (67) and Sundar (62) put on a remarkable 123-run stand.

Josh Hazlewood's five-wicket haul finally helped put an end to India's stubborn resistance – Australia heading into their second innings with a 33-run advantage on Sunday.

David Warner (20 not out) and Marcus Harris (1 not out) saw out the remaining half-hour of play to lead Australia to 21-0 at stumps, a lead of 54 runs, as Tim Paine's side face a race against time to win the Test and reclaim the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

After rain wreaked havoc on Saturday, India resumed 62-2 in response to Australia's first-innings 369 in Brisbane, where Hazlewood (5-57) and Mitchell Starc (2-88) managed to claim the prized scalps of Cheteshwar Pujara (25) and captain Ajinkya Rahane (37) in the morning session.

Hazlewood removed Mayank Agarwal (38) with the second delivery after lunch, and the Australia star almost dismissed Rishabh Pant (23) to leave India 186-6.

But Shardul and Sundar combined to sensationally thwart Australia, who toiled tirelessly before eventually bowling out India.

Star Australia opener Warner then raced out the blocks with a quick-fire 20 runs, including three boundaries, to navigate a tricky end to the day.

 

India duo come to the rescue

A remarkable seventh-wicket stand kept Australia at bay and clawed India within touching distance of the hosts' first-innings total.

It was an unlikely pairing that rescued India – Sundar celebrating a half-century on his Test debut, while Shardul also raised his bat for a maiden Test fifty.

Hazlewood huffs and puffs

For the second time in the blockbuster series, Hazlewood recorded a five-for against India.

It was far from easy for Australia, but Hazlewood battled as Pujara, Agarwal, Pant, Navdeep Saini (5) and Mohammed Siraj (13) fell victim to the fast bowler.

West Indies vice-captain for the One Day International (ODI) team Sunil Ambris is hoping to stake his claim for a regular place in the first-team squad, by scoring at least one 100 in the upcoming tour of Bangladesh.

The 27-year-old Ambris was among several players unexpectedly named to the West Indies squad for the tour after 12 first-team players made themselves unavailable for the tour.  Prior to that Ambris had last played for the team in February of last year, on the team’s tour of Sri Lanka.  On that occasion, the player averaged 26 in three matches.  He was not selected to the team for either of the team’s previous tours to England or New Zealand.

Ambris, in addition to providing support for less experienced players on the tour, hopes to push himself back in the conversation for regular selection.

“This is the first tour that I’m actually confident that I will be starting.  So, I would like to use this tour to cement myself in the starting 11 for other tours,” Ambris told members of the media via an online press conference on Friday.

“I’d love to get at least one hundred out of these three games, I think that would do me a lot of good,” he added.

  

Windies batsman, Andre Fletcher, has pointed to a call from legendary batsman Brian Lara as pivotal in helping to turn around his form in this season’s Big Bash League (BBL).

On Thursday, Fletcher smashed a brutal 89 for just 49 balls to underpin the Melbourne Stars massive 111 run win over Adelaide Strikers.  The knock was timely for Fletcher as he had not passed 18 in his first nine BBL encounters.

The 33-year-old had previously also performed below expectations in a low-scoring Caribbean Premier League (CPL), where he scored 211 from 12 games despite his team St Lucia Zouks making it to the final.  As it turns out, it was a call from the legendary West Indian batsman, who is on commentary duty at the BBL, which proved critical in helping Fletcher turn around that recent run of bad form.

"He called me, and I was surprised, to be honest," Fletcher said following his explosive performance.

"He was telling me that, looking from the outside, I've been striking the ball cleanly and he just told me to give myself that opportunity. Giving myself that chance and playing each ball on its merits,” he added.

"I'm an aggressive player so there's no need to go out there and look to [over] power the ball. To be honest, that's what I did today.

"I've met him before. He's a great guy. I told him over the phone, after what he told me I was like, 'So Brian, now I understand the reason you were so great'.

"He told me, feel free to call him any time I wish to, he's there, he's open for anything and willing to give me advice."

Former West Indies fast bowler, Tony Gray, believes it is a mistake for selectors to get caught up with selecting teams based on conditions.

Recently, Cricket West Indies (CWI) chief of selectors Roger Harper set off a firestorm with an explanation that promising fast bowler Chemar Holder had been left out of the Test squad for the Bangladesh tour, in order to include an extra spinner to exploit conditions.

For some, the decision was all the more vexing considering the absence of Jason Holder, who was typically part and parcel of a four-prong pace bowling attack, and Chemar Holder’s promising debut in New Zealand where he took two wickets in trying circumstances.

For his part, in addition to pointing out that Bangladesh were exceptional at handling spin, Gray pointed to the fact that a multitude of pace bowlers had done well on Asian pitches for several decades.

“I think that they (selectors) are fixated on the conditions, you cannot be fixated on the conditions,” Gray told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“I played my first Test series in Pakistan and I got 14 wickets in three games.  You want the mindset to be there.  If you are telling a young fast bowler, for example, who can bowl some 90 miles an hour deliveries, that you are not going to perform well because of bowling conditions that are not really suited to your pace and your style of bowling, then you are doing the wrong thing,” he added.

“So, I think they have been fixated on conditions and there are other things to take note of for example the strengths of the opposition, the Bangladeshis are very adept at playing spin bowling.”

Windies fast bowling legend Sir Andy Roberts has hailed current West Indies captain Jason Holder as an excellent cricketer but concedes aspects of his captaincy could use a bit of work.

Roberts believes that, in particular, the all-rounder still struggles with the setting of his field and making key leadership decisions at crucial times.

Holder’s captaincy has come under the microscope in recent months, on the back of disappointing results and underwhelming performances by the team against both England and New Zealand.  The issues disgruntled pundits have pointed out have had to do with the his field placings and decisions whether to bat or bowl after winning the toss.

“I think Jason Holder as a captain on the field is lost. I don’t think he is aware of what is going on on the field because if I win a toss as a captain and before lunch on a green top pitch I am having a man on the point boundary, then I am lost,” Roberts told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“That’s the first thing. His field placing (leaves) a lot to be desired and I believe the time should come where he takes instructions from the coaches who can see the game better than he can,” he added.

Roberts, however, also believes Holder has been let down by players around him, while also calling on the all-rounder to be more aggressive.

“A captain is only as good as the men who he leads, so there has to be something wrong with the 11 guys on the field and cannot pinpoint certain things to the captain,” Roberts said.

“I would give him an ‘A’ grade for his interviews – he interviews very well. He’s a damn good cricketer but he needs to be more aggressive in his approach as a captain. He’s too defensive-minded.”

West Indies legend Sir Andy Roberts insists the region’s fall off in producing top-class bowling talent is due to the unwillingness of the current generation to put in the hard yards required to be successful.

For decades, the region was the producer of fearsome fast bowling talent, which often left opposition batsmen with plenty to think about.  The likes of Roberts, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Wes Hall, and Michael Holding are only a few of the names who could leave opponents with plenty to dread once they strode to the crease.

Many will point to the pace-bowling lineage being broken with the end of twin towers Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, with no bowler since managing to come close to consistency matching that once fearsome legacy.

“I don’t think that these guys are prepared for the hard work that fast bowling entails,” Roberts told the Mason and Guest program.

“If you look at it, most players now prefer to play T20s, it's only four overs.  I must say that fast bowling is hard work, I would say donkey work, but I just believe they are not prepared,” he added.

In recent times, some have blamed poor preparation of the region’s pitches for suffocation of the Caribbean’s fast bowling talent, Roberts, however, does not agree.

“A lot of people blame the pitches, but I always ask, Pakistan is supposed to have some of the slowest pitches in the world, yet still they produce some of the fastest bowlers in the world.  How do they do it and we can’t,” Roberts said.

 “People believe that during the 60s, 70s, and 80s we used to have really fast pitches, that is far from the truth.  We used to have Kensington Oval, the ball used to swing around and move off the seam on the first day, but after that, it became one of the best batting pitches in the region.  It has nothing to do with pitches, it has a lot to do with the work ethics of the young cricketers, they don’t want to work hard.”

Dan Lawrence gave Joe Root a first-hand look at his talents on debut in Sri Lanka and the England Test captain came away impressed.

Root brought up his 18th century in the longest format and reached 168 not out before rain and bad light spared Sri Lanka the punishment of an evening session on day two.

The other stand-out turn in England amassing 320-4 - a first-innings lead of 185 after the hosts were skittled on day one - was Lawrence, who plundered a stylish 73 to announce himself at the highest level.

A mighty slog-swept six off left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya came with ample panache and was the shot of the day.

He helped add 173 alongside Root for the fourth wicket and the captain looked on approvingly.

"I'm very impressed, I thought he played magnificently well," he said.

"He showed exactly why he deserves his opportunity to play, and hopefully it is the start of something very special for him."

Root surpassed Kevin Pietersen's 151 in Colombo nine years ago to register England's highest score in Sri Lanka.

Despite this being his first Test century since November 2019, the Yorkshireman showed he had not lost his knack for going big - this his eighth score in excess of 150.

"Generally when I make a 100, I make it really count," he said.

"I have got quite a good record past 100, so tomorrow I will be trying to make that another really big one and drive the game forward from there.

"I felt that I got in a really good mindset throughout this game so far and I will try and take that into the rest of this winter tour and beyond.

"The previous couple of hundreds that I have got - even though they were a while ago - have come at the end of series.

"So to get one at the start of a very long winter is quite exciting, and hopefully I can take that forward into the rest of the game."

Joe Root led from the front with an unbeaten century to leave England in complete control of the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle.

Resuming on 66, the England captain batted throughout truncated day two in masterful fashion, reaching 168 at tea before rain and bad light put paid to the final session, with the tourists on 320-4 - a first-innings lead of 185.

Debutant Dan Lawrence made a wonderfully fluent 73 as part of a 173 alongside Root, with Sri Lanka's main hopes of avoiding a heavy defeat already seemingly pinned on further unseasonably wet weather.

Events might have panned out very differently had Dilruwan Perera removed Root lbw with the first ball of the day, but an umpire's call fell in the batsman's favour and he was off and running with a straight four crunched back down the ground in the same over.

The tireless Lasith Embuldeniya claimed his third wicket of the match as Kusal Mendis held a sharp chance at gully to dismiss Jonny Bairstow three runs shy of a half-century.

Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, Lawrence showed no sign of debut nerves as his attractive, smooth-wristed style transferred easily to the Test arena.

The highlight of the 23-year-old's 150-ball knock came when he launched left-arm spinner Embuldeniya for a huge, slog-swept six.

Root and Lawrence played in unhurried fashion off front and back foot, devouring a heavy diet of spin bowling until Dilruwan found extra bounce with the second new ball to have the youngster caught by Mendis at short leg.

Jos Buttler's scratchy progress against Dilruwan showed batting might not be quite as easy on a turning surface as Root and Lawrence suggested, meaning England are ominously placed despite the lost time.

Root begins pivotal year in emphatic fashion

A packed 2021 schedule is likely to define Root's reign as England's Test captain, with home and away series against India preceding a trip to Australia and a third crack at Ashes glory in his tenure.

He probably took a light lunch, having ended the first session on 99 in pursuit of a first ton in the longest format since November 2019.

In truth, the immaculate balance and judgement Root displayed throughout made an 18th Test century feel like a formality and, after nudging a single off Dilruwan from the second ball of the session, he went on to surpass Kevin Pietersen's 151 in Colombo in 2012 to make England's highest individual score in Sri Lanka.

Lawrence gives England a handy problem

Root and head coach Chris Silverwood will need to call on squad depth as they negotiate the challenges of the year to come and Lawrence's stylish introduction to the middle order was most welcome.

A remodelled Test side designed to bat time at the top of the order with the likes of Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and Rory Burns now has another option in the engine room to make the purists purr. Ollie Pope knows he must hit the ground running on his expected return from shoulder surgery in India.

Embuldeniya gamely holds the fort in Galle

Sri Lanka's spinners have matched their batsmen for ineptitude at times, with Dilruwan struggling for length before finding some rhythm prior to tea and leg-spinner Hasaranga De Silva (0-63) going at more than four an over.

Skipper Dinesh Chandimal has turned time and again to Embuldeniya, who has wheeled through 38 overs for his 3-131. If a five-wicket haul arrives it will be the result of relentless toil.

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