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Windies may gamble on greenhorns

Injury-ridden West Indies may be forced to gamble on greenhorn fast bowlers Fidel Edwards and Ravi Rampaul in their first Test against South Africa.

india Updated: Dec 10, 2003 19:49 IST

Injury-ridden West Indies may be forced to gamble on greenhorn fast bowlers Fidel Edwards and Ravi Rampaul in their first Test against South Africa starting at the Wanderers Stadium here Friday.

The visitors will be seeking to reverse memories of a crushing defeat inflicted during their last tour of South Africa in 1998-99 when they were hammered in all five Tests.

Edwards, 21, has made a dramatic start to his international career, with 14 wickets in his first three Tests, but Rampaul, 19, has yet to play in a Test.

The youngsters are likely to spearhead the attack together with veteran Mervyn Dillon.

West Indian fast bowler Jerome Taylor has had to return home with a back injury, while Vasbert Drakes and Corey Collymore have both had injury problems.

Drakes has been out of action after suffering a side strain during the tour of Zimbabwe last month but he is expected to be fit for the Test.

Collymore did not bowl in a four-day warm-up match against Free State last weekend because of a hamstring strain.

While Collymore was forced out of the action in Bloemfontein, Rampaul took five wickets for 55 runs in the first innings against Free State to suggest to the tour selectors that he was ready to take a step up in class.

Edwards, short of stature but able to generate considerable pace with a slingy action reminiscent of former Pakistan star Waqar Younis, was selected for the West Indies after playing in only one first-class match for Barbados.

He took five for 36 on debut against Sri Lanka in Kingston, Jamaica, in June and claimed another five-wicket haul in the first Test against Zimbabwe in Harare last month.

In addition to Taylor, off-spinner Omari Banks and batsman Marlon Samuels have been ruled out of the tour during the past eight days because of injuries. Only one replacement, left-arm spinner Dave Mohammed, who arrived Tuesday, has joined the squad at this stage.

With the Wanderers pitch seldom helping spin bowlers, it would be a surprise if Mohammed was rushed into the Test side, which suggests Edwards and Rampaul will be part of an all-pace attack.

The West Indies were beaten in all five Tests on their previous tour of South Africa -- one of the darkest episodes in their cricketing history.

Between 1997-98 and their tour of India in the 2002-03 season, the West Indies lost 23 out of 28 Tests away from home, winning only twice, but star batsman Brian Lara, in his second term as West Indies captain, is determined to lead a revival.

The players from the Caribbean have won three of their most recent four away Tests but they have played against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, the two weakest Test nations. South Africa will provide much sterner opposition.

It is an important series for the home side, who will be led for the first time in South Africa by Graeme Smith.

The 22-year-old has shown promise as a captain, winning a series in Bangladesh and sharing the honours in England. But South Africa were beaten in a two-match series in Pakistan in October.

It will be South Africa's first home appearance since they were eliminated in the first round of the World Cup earlier this year, a failure which led to Shaun Pollock being sacked as captain and Smith appointed as the youngest captain in the country's history.

South Africa will be without veteran batsman Gary Kirsten, who withdrew to be with his wife for the birth of the couple's first child.

Teams:

South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Mark Boucher (vice-captain), Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Rudolph, Jacques Kallis, Neil McKenzie, Martin van Jaarsveld, Shaun Pollock, Andrew Hall, Robin Peterson, Makhaya Ntini, Andre Nel, Garnett Kruger.

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

Umpires: Simon Taufel and Darrell Hair (both Australia).

TV umpire: Ian Howell (Rsa).

Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka).

First Published: Dec 10, 2003 19:49 IST