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West Indies and South Africa seek breakthrough

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, March 16 (AFP) - After a stalemate in the first Test, West Indies and South Africa will be seeking to establish an early ascendancy in a five-match series when they meet in the second Test at the Queens Park Oval on Saturday.

Both South African captain Shaun Pollock and West Indian skipper Carl Hooper said neither side had gained an edge in the drawn first contest in Georgetown, Guyana.

"If it had been boxing it would have been a draw," said Hooper, who is returning to lead the team after dropping out of international cricket in 1999.

The opportunity for a knockout blow may come at a ground notorious for low final innings totals in recent years. Although the pitch often favours batsmen in the early stages, there has been a tendency for the bounce to become uneven as matches progress.

England were bowled out for 46 in 1993/94, West Indies for 51 by Australia in 1998/99 and Zimbabwe for 63 last season.

Queens Park has a reputation as a spinners pitch, but it has been the faster bowlers who have been mainly responsible for the low totals.

With West Indies and South Africa looking evenly matched, the toss could be a crucial factor.

South Africa had two injury worries ahead of the match, with batsman Neil McKenzie and left-arm spinner Nicky Boje both requiring cortisone injections, McKenzie for a tendon in his left forearm and Boje for a recurrence of an old left shoulder injury. Both, though, are expected to play.

Both captains were pleased with the way their players performed in Georgetown, with Hooper especially delighted by the showing of young batsmen Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels and Ramnaresh Sarwan, who all made half centuries.

The South Africans, who usually work out detailed plans for bowling to opposition batsmen, will have had three days to figure out ways of containing the youngsters, who all played against South Africa for the first time.

Pollock said his team had adjusted well to West Indian conditions.

"It was a difficult pitch which didnt allow for aggressive cricket," he said. "We are looking to play positive cricket and we learnt a lot in the first Test."

He also praised his bowlers who had "fought hard" in unhelpful conditions. The persistence of the South African bowlers meant that they maintained a record of not allowing a West Indian batsman to score a century against them in the seven Tests played between the two sides.

It may have been ominous for the South Africans, though, that Brian Lara showed good form in Georgetown with innings of 47 and 45.

He will be playing at the ground where he played club cricket as a youngster and could not pick a more appropriate venue to make a big score against opponents who have so far kept him in check.

The teams:

West Indies (from): Carl Hooper (captain), Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Marlon Samuels, Brian Lara, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Ridley Jacobs, Nixon McLean, Dinanath Ramnarine, Mervyn Dillon, Courtney Walsh, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Reon King

South Africa (likely team): Shaun Pollock (captain), Gary Kirsten, Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis, Daryll Cullinan, Neil McKenzie, Lance Klusener, Mark Boucher, Nicky Boje, Allan Donald, Makhaya Ntini.

Umpires: Billy Doctrove (West Indies), Darrell Hair (Australia). Match referee: Mike Denness (England)

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