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West Indies look to Lara

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, March 27 (AFP) - The West Indies will be looking for a major contribution from star batsman Brian Lara as they seek to level the series against South Africa in the third Test starting at Kensington Oval Thursday.

Lara failed in the second Test in Port of Spain, Trinidad, which South Africa won by 69 runs to go 1-0 up in the five-match series. Lara made 12 and 0.

But West Indian captain Carl Hooper said he was confident Lara would soon register a big score. "I am not worried about Brian. He is a class player and I expect him to get off somewhere along the series," said Hooper.

"He looks good in the nets and hopefully he can give us something to really shout about in Barbados."

Lara has played in all eight Tests West Indies have played against South Africa but has yet to score a century against them.

Remarkably, none of his teammates has registered a three-figure score either, with Ramnaresh Sarwan's 91 in the first Test of the series in Georgetown being the highest by a West Indian batsman.

But Lara made a match-winning 153 not out in his most recent Test appearance at the Kensington Oval against Australia two seasons ago.

Hooper and coach Roger Harper both called for more application by all the batsmen.

"It is important in Test cricket that you convert the 30s and 40s into big scores. While a score of 40 is allowing us to be competitive, it is not going to help to win a Test match. We need bigger scores from individuals."

West Indies have called up Cameron Cuffy, a two-metre tall fast bowler from the Windward Islands who bowled well for a West Indies Board XI in a three- day match against the tourists at the Kensington Oval.

Cuffy, 31, replaces Nixon McLean, who was unimpressive in the first two Tests.

The selectors retained experienced batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul in their 13-man squad. He did not play in the first two Tests because it was felt he lacked match practice after recovering from an injury which cut short his tour of Australia late last year.

They may bring him into the final eleven to add resolve to the batting at the expense of the talented but inexperienced Marlon Samuels.

South Africa are likely to be unchanged although there is concern about the fitness of left-arm spinner Nicky Boje, who has been struggling with a shoulder injury and who did not field on the final day of the Board XI match because of a knee problem.

Skipper Shaun Pollock said, however, that he expected Boje to be fit to play.

The Kensington Oval pitch is likely to give more help to the fast bowlers than they received in the first two Tests in Guyana and Trinidad.

Both sides have strong pace bowling attacks but South Africa have greater batting depth, with Cuffy's probable inclusion in the starting line-up lengthening an already fragile West Indian tail order.

For South Africa, it will be the first time they have played in a Test in Bridgetown since the historic 1992 match when West Indies won a one-off game by 52 runs.

It was the first Test played by South Africa after 21 years of political isolation. They looked set for victory but lost eight wickets for 26 runs on the last day, with Courtney Walsh taking four for eight in 11 overs on the last morning.

Walsh and Lara are the only West Indians still in the Test side, while fast bowler Allan Donald is the only South African who played in the inaugural match.


West Indies (from): Carl Hooper (capt), Ridley Jacobs (vice-captain), Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Marlon Samuels, Brian Lara, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Dinanath Ramnarine, Mervyn Dillon, Courtney Walsh, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Cameron Cuffy and Dave Mohammed.

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

Umpires: Steve Bucknor (WIs), Darrell Hair (Aus). Match referee: Mike Denness (Eng)

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