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Windies aim for 1st test win in Sri Lanka

GALLE, Sri Lanka(AP)–The West Indies will be searching for a first test victory on Sri Lankan soil when the two sides start a three-match series on Monday.

The Sri Lankans, meanwhile, are targeting a hat-trick of series sweeps at home against the seventh-ranked test team.

“We are determined and pretty confident that we have the players to do that,”Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara told reporters about his hopes for maintaining a winning record.

“But you can’t go to the last two series. They are a different side and we are a different side. We don’t have the likes of paceman Chaminda Vaas and offspinner Muttiah Muralitharan.”

The teams have met in six test series so far and each won two series at home. The other two were drawn.

West Indies captain Darren Sammy, who will lead the team for the first time, said Sri Lanka is always tough to play against.

“It is not easy, it has not been easy to beat Sri Lanka here. It is not only West Indies but all other teams found it difficult,”he said.”We are aware of the challenge at hand.”

Sri Lanka, currently third in the ICC test rankings, attained test status in 1982 but had to wait 11 years before its first match against the West Indies, which was at the pinnacle of world cricket in the 1980s.

The first test series in 1993 played in Sri Lanka disappointed the home crowd when rain and wet grounds curtailed much of the one-off series in which famous players such as fast bowlers Courtney Walsh, Curtley Ambrose, batsmen Carl Hooper and Brian Lara participated.

The match was drawn after both sides had played an innings.

West Indies hosted its first series in 1997 and won the two-match series 1-0 with the visitors managing a thrilling draw in the second match after losing eight second-innings wickets.

Four years later West Indies toured the island and were swept 3-0 by Sanath Jayasuriya’s squad despite Lara compiling 688 runs at an average of 114, including three centuries.

Vaas with 26 wickets and Muralitharan 24 wickets played dominant roles for Sri Lanka’s success.

The West Indies won 1-0 at home in 2003, then Sri Lanka swept the West Indies again in a two-match series in 2005 and two years after drew an away series 1-1.

West Indies goes into the series under new captain Sammy who has vowed to infuse”energy, passion and performance”to a side that has seen an alarming slide after dominating the cricket world in the 1970s and 80s.

With just eight tests under his belt Sammy has succeeded 88-test veteran Chris Gayle who lost his leadership after a contract dispute with the cricket board.

“First of all it’s a massive honor for me,”Sammy said.”West Indies cricket has a great history and legacy and to lead any West Indies team would be an honor to me. I am excited and looking forward for tomorrow.”

Sammy has a team of a mix of youth and experience with the likes of Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Gayle.

Sri Lanka faces its first series after the retirement of Muralitharan who quit earlier this year with a world record haul of 800 wickets.

Sangakkara, however, was confident that his spin bowlers Rangana Herath, Ajantha Mendis and Suraj Randiv can make up for Muralitharan’s absence.

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