West Indies hitting their stride

Brian Lara

Brian Lara is pleased with the way his batsmen paced themselves against hosts India

West Indies captain Brian Lara is delighted his top order seems to be peaking just at the right time after seeing his side advance to the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy.

The Windies, who are the defending champions, stuttered into the last four following a nerve-racking three-wicket victory over hosts India on Thursday.

Lara’s men were looking comfortable on 212 for three in pursuit of the hosts’ total of 223, but ended up struggling home with only two balls to spare after wickets had tumbled at the death.

Lara joked to reporters after the win: “We always make things exciting and now it’s very exciting for you as well since India face Australia in a do-or-die clash.”

But he was happy with the way his top order fared with the business end of the tournament looming.

Four of his batsmen were particularly impressive - Chris Gayle made a rapid 34, Shivnarine Chanderpaul struck 51, Ramnaresh Sarwan scored 53 and Runako Morton added 45.

“The most important thing about our batting was the partnerships,” Lara said. “The guys are out there and spending time in the middle.

Lara now wants to see one of his batsmen go on make a three-figure contribution in the semi-finals, and the final if they make it that far.

“We have got the batting line-up we wanted. What we need now is to enforce the thing, and continue batting, winning matches and see the likes of Gayle get a 100.”

India, for their part, are in a dire situation.

They play Australia on Sunday, knowing the losers will be knocked out of the competition.

The biggest problem for Rahul Dravid’s team has been the form of his batsmen, and the captain knows what his team will need to do if they are to have any chance against the world champions.

“We need to get runs, especially on slow wickets where we need to adapt quickly and deliver,” Dravid said after the game in Ahmedabad.

“That is a must-win game (against Australia) for us. We have identified some areas where we will try to improve,” added the skipper.

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