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Lara seeks more improvement in WI team

The West Indies will seek further improvement when they play South Africa in the fourth and final Test at Centurion Park, starting on Friday, Brian Lara said.

india Updated: Jan 15, 2004 01:27 IST

The West Indies will seek further improvement when they play South Africa in the fourth and final Test at Centurion Park, starting on Friday, captain Brian Lara said on Wednesday.

South Africa have already clinched the series, which they lead 2-0, but Lara said there was still plenty at stake for the West Indies, who earned a draw in the third Test in Cape Town before beating Easterns, the current South African four-day competition champions, in a match leading up to the final Test.

"The win against Easterns was important because it gave us a little bit of momentum going into the Test but the most important thing for me is that this side should keep improving," said Lara. "I would like to see a whole-hearted effort so we can all come off the field proud of our performance."

The biggest improvement in the West Indies side is in batting, with five of the top six batsmen having made centuries during the series.

"It's great to see a lot of guys performing," said Lara, who said it was time for the bowling and fielding to match the standard of the batting.

Although still prone to collapse, as they showed when they lost their first five wickets for 43 in the second innings of the first Test in Johannesburg, the West Indian batting has been far more solid than it was in 11 previous encounters between the two sides, when wicketkeeper Ridley Jacobs was the only man to notch a century against the South Africans.

The spectacular century hit off 93 balls by debutant Dwayne Smith was a highlight for the tourists in the third Test, with Lara praising the attitude of the youngster from Barbados.

But he said Smith, an all-rounder, was still struggling after dislocating his little right finger while fielding in Cape Town. He was in pain while he made his century and was rested from the Easterns game. It is not certain he will play.

"Hopefully he will be able to grip the bat properly and be able to field, even if he can't bowl," said Lara.

Following the draw in Cape Town, the pressure will be on South Africa to finish the series well, with South African captain Graeme Smith admitting that his team have sometimes failed to maintain peak form until the end of a series.

Coach Eric Simons added to the pressure by admitting in Cape Town that South Africa had set out to win the series 4-0.

"That was the plan right from the beginning," he said.

"Obviously we would have liked to win all four but the way the guys have played has been really exciting."

On a pitch which has generally favoured fast bowlers, both teams will be tempted to go in without a specialist spinner. South Africa's Paul Adams and West Indian Dave Mohammed, both left-arm wrist spinners, were disappointing in Cape Town.

But former South African captain Shaun Pollock said hot weather in the Centurion area would probably mean a dry pitch.

"The spinners haven't really performed in this series but that is because the faster bowlers have done the job. I think there will be some assistance for the spinners later on."

Pollock said fast bowler Andre Nel had been a star for South Africa.

"He has really put his hand up and made sure of his place in the team."

Saturday's play at Centurion clashed with Nel's wedding to Deanne Weitz in nearby Benoni but the ceremony has been postponed from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm (1430 to 1630 GMT). Play is due to finish at 5:30 pm but could run later if over rates are slow, which has been the pattern during the series.

Nel has been promised a police escort to enable him to get to the wedding as soon as possible after play finishes.

The West Indies, who have been hit hard by injuries, lost batsman Wavell Hinds, who has returned home after struggling both with his form and a groin strain. In his place, though, will come Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who hit a century in the second Test but missed the third because of a thigh strain.

Teams:

South Africa (from): Graeme Smith (captain), Mark Boucher (vice-captain), Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Rudolph, Jacques Kallis, Gary Kirsten, Neil McKenzie, Martin van Jaarsveld, Shaun Pollock, Andrew Hall, Paul Adams, Makhaya Ntini, Andre Nel.

West Indies (from): Brian Lara (captain), Ramnaresh Sarwan (vice-captain), Chris Gayle, Daren Ganga, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dwayne Smith, Ridley Jacobs, Carlton Baugh, Vasbert Drakes, Mervyn Dillon, Fidel Edwards, Ravindarnath Rampaul, Adam Sanford, Dave Mohammed, Corey Collymore.

Umpires: David Shepherd (ENG), Srinivas Venkataraghavan (IND)

Television umpire: Brian Jerling (RSA)

Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI)