Lara wishes England well

Brian Lara

The majestic Brian Lara

Brian Lara has sent a good luck message to England ahead of the Ashes but is intent on worsening their one-day plight before the plane leaves for Australia.

West Indies great Lara has dealt out more punishment on England than any other batsman in the modern era, twice breaking the world-record Test score in matches in Antigua.

But he has a healthy respect for what Michael Vaughan’s men achieved last summer in what he says is the best contest he has witnessed.

Ahead of Saturday’s ICC Champions Trophy contest at the Sardar Patel Stadium, 37-year-old Lara said: “I thought the series I saw in England a year ago was maybe the best series I have ever looked at.

“I wish them well; the odds are against them with the likes of Michael Vaughan missing but then you can always back the underdog and if they could retain the Ashes I think it would be a very good achievement.”

Lara stopped short of predicting the outcome of England’s defence of the urn, preferring to concentrate on developing further momentum in West Indies’ own bid to retain a significant prize.

Although holders West Indies are through to the latter stages of this tournament, Lara - who is troubled by a niggling back problem - is keen to progress with a 100% record.

Brian Lara

Lara is one of the best batsmen in world cricket

“If I am fitter than I was against India I definitely play, I think it is important again that we get the best team out there and win the game,” said Lara. “The necessity is to win.

“Against India I wasn’t 100% that’s for sure. I left it as late as possible, did some work with the physio on the morning of the match and felt it was okay.

“It was a very important game and we were in a situation where we didn’t want to have to come here again on Saturday and have to beat England.

“I knew if I got anywhere near 80 or 90% fit then I would get out there.”

Unlike last month, however, there will be no tinkering with the side for tactical or health reasons - Chris Gayle and Lara batted at six and nine respectively in the DLF Cup semi-final and the team imploded faced with a modest chase.

“We don’t want to have a hiccup at this time,” said Lara. “We did that in Malaysia when we experimented in the game before the finals, lost the game against India and lost the momentum. So we don’t want to do that again.”

Despite having to go through the qualifying round of the event, during which they were routed by Sri Lanka, the West Indians’ have produced two clinical performances to see off world champions Australia and hosts India.

“This tells us exactly where we are in world cricket,” insisted Lara. “We have never been short of confidence or talent, it has just been a case of getting it together.

“The guys talk a lot off cricket off the field and that is where you learn the game. We are winning the game off the field.”

Fast bowler Corey Collymore returns to the squad for Saturday’s contest, having been granted leave to witness the birth of his daughter back in the Caribbean.

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