Windies reaching peak - Lara

Brian Lara

Brian Lara has struggled with a back problem © Getty Images

Brian Lara believes holders West Indies reaching their optimum performance at the right time as they head into the ICC Champions Trophy semi-final with South Africa.

Although they were forced to qualify for this tournament, the West Indians have been impressive in games which matter, losing to Sri Lanka and England in ones which did not.

Hosts India and world champions Australia were the anticipated semi-finalists from a strong Group A but were both defeated by a side ranked eighth when the seedings for the event were made in April.

“We just know our game better now than at any other time of the year and kudos must be given to the team itself,” said Lara, ahead of the last-four encounter at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium.

“There is a cohesiveness and we are working really hard to get the results we want.

“Most definitely everyone is starting to believe in themselves, the importance of being hosts of the World Cup next year means there is a responsibility to give a good account of ourselves. It starts from this tournament.”

Brian Lara

Batsman Brian Lara can take apart any bowling attack

Arguably their overall improvement began in the 2004 Trophy when they defied their underdog status to win a memorable final against hosts England at The Oval.

Two of their leading current performers Dwayne Bravo and Ian Bradshaw were just beginning their careers as international players while Ramnaresh Sarwan rubber-stamped his ability with the bat by being named player-of-the tournament.

“We came off two Test series against England, we were beaten 7-0, and after that the guys really wanted to go home,” recalled Lara.

“We played every single game knowing that tomorrow could be the flight home and we were really desperate for a win. Beating England in the final did us a lot of good.”

There has been bad blood between West Indies and South Africa in recent times with on-field confrontations prominent but Lara played down the issue, preferring to focus on Thursday’s game plan.

“We are playing good cricket, we are executing our tasks the way we want to, we have dissected the South African team and we know exactly what we want to do against them,” he said.

Brian Lara

Brian Lara has matured into the captaincy role in his third spell at the helm

“Whoever bats or bowls first is something of an irrelevance.

“It will be the team that plays better that will win and it is important to play 100 overs of good cricket.”

Lara, troubled by a back injury over the past fortnight, has been batting down the order in a fluid arrangement.

“We are quite happy with the way the guys are expressing themselves regardless of the order,” Lara said.

“We have been unorthodox in this tournament and I cannot say we are going to have a fixed order.”

Left-armer Bradshaw is certain to earn a recall after being rested against England and all-rounder Dwayne Smith will also be in the reckoning once more.

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