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Sammy plays down favourites tag

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Captain Darren Sammy was taken aback by West Indies’ favourites tag today - but is nonetheless confident they can beat England in the NatWest Series.

The first of three one-day internationals will take place at the Ageas Bowl tomorrow, and Sammy is already struggling to work out how to find a place in the XI for each of his long list of six-hitters.

He is wise enough to know that will not prove his biggest problem against opponents who have lurched in ODIs in recent times, but reserved their best performances for an unbeaten run of five series at home.

Darren Sammy

Skipper Darren Sammy is confident West Indies can emerge victorious in the NatWest Series but is refusing to underestimate England's threat

West Indies, by contrast, have not beaten a team ranked above them in a 50-over series since Chris Gayle’s team won in England five years ago.

But the tourists have a welter of power-hitters, athletic fielders and bowling options here - and pushed Australia hard in their last series, drawing 2-2 in the Caribbean.

“I’ve not heard favourites and the West Indies in the same sentence for a long time,” said a surprised Sammy. “England in England is always difficult. We’re not going to take it for granted.

“But we do believe as a team we should win this one-day series, and we’ve got to go out and play accordingly, smart and be consistent.”

As for the array of big-hitters, headed by Gayle, it seems Dwayne Smith - who smashed 96 against Middlesex in West Indies’ warm-up match at Lord’s - may be the unlucky man to miss out.

“It’s going to be a headache to select the first XI,” added Sammy. “But whatever XI, we will be equally capable of winning the games.

“We’ve got some serious firepower in our line-up. With that said, we’ve still got to be smart and play each ball on its merits and get the singles in between.

“But it’s still good to have all that firepower in one squad.”

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