Gayle poised for Test return
Chris Gayle will on Wednesday play his first Test match for more than 18 months as West Indies take on New Zealand seeking to improve a record of just one victory in their last 10 series.
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The Windies, without Gayle at home to Australia and in England so far this year, had their moments but were unable to sustain their performances over five days.
Against New Zealand in two Tests, the first at Antigua's Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground, they will have the x-factor back in their ranks - with Gayle at the top of the order.
The destructive opener has been in the Test wilderness, thanks to his stand-off with the West Indies Cricket Board, since his 91st cap against Sri Lanka at Pallekele in early December 2010.
Yet Gayle has continued to create headlines in that time, not just because of broken relations with his Windies employers but through his Twenty20 exploits at the Indian Premier League.
The 32-year-old was also back in action, to significant effect, for his country in the one-day international and Twenty20 series in England and then at home to the Kiwis - before his Test return was confirmed.
West Indies captain Darren Sammy has had to try to marshal a promising but inconsistent team - albeit with the reliability of veteran batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul as the sticking plaster - in Gayle's absence.
Sammy is naturally delighted that Gayle is at last available again.
"It is very exciting to have Chris back," he said.
"I know he is looking forward to being back out in the white clothes."
Chanderpaul, no longer a limited-overs option for his country, will also be present.
"It's not just Chris, but Shiv, who is always ready for battle, and everyone in the team," added Sammy.
"We are eager to get started.
"With Chris coming back, we have the experience at the top of the order; we can see off the new ball and put up some good totals on the board.
"You would back our bowlers to come and get 20 wickets for us."
West Indies were New Zealand's masters in the shorter formats, but are anxious to make up for lost time over five days.
"We haven't won a (Test) series at home for a long time," said Sammy.
"We're playing some good cricket at the moment...we showed encouraging signs when we played (at home) against Australia back in April and we want to show that we are growing as a team."
Sammy's opposite number Ross Taylor is optimistic his team can hit back after their ODI and Twenty20 disappointments.
The tourists are hoping Daniel Vettori, who took six wickets in the warm-up match against a President's XI, can continue to pose problems for home batsmen.
"You can't pay for experience," said Taylor.
"Vettori showed what a class player he is during the three-day match and will be handful on that wicket against what is a good West Indies team.
"We will need to bowl well against their left-handers."