Buoyant Pakistan eye whitewash against world champions
Bereft of confidence and 0-4 down, not much was happening for Pakistan’s limited-overs squad in their ODI series against England last month. But, as is the case in sport, one moment of clear thinking can help a team turn in around. Pakistan achieved that through a partnership between their best limited-overs batsmen, Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz Ahmed, in a demanding chase of 303 in Cardiff.
Three convincing T20 wins followed, and now, Pakistan have an atypical sense of belief in their own game, and camaraderie under newly-appointed captain Sarfraz has hit a new level. Although this series is done, Pakistan are still striving to find the glue that can hold it all together: consistency.
Pakistan’s series win against West Indies has been built around the same modus operandi they’ve used for decades – bat to par and bowl well above that. Reducing the world champions to 48-8 and 89-7 in the first two T20s showed their discipline with the ball. A youthful side has also shown the ability to save runs on the field. But, how will Pakistan’s new-look outfit hold their own under the duress that this format often brings?
As teams master the T20 format, they also sometimes deem a “bad day” acceptable. West Indies’ batsmen suffered two in succession, which has cost the team the series; their six-hitters have hit the wall when unable to find the boundary. “West Indies are known to be a boundary-hitting side. But it’s up to us to find a way around that,” batting coach Toby Radford said after the second T20. If they don’t, a whitewash may be inevitable.
In the spotlight
Shoaib Malik has been one of Pakistan’s most consistent T20 performers. In his last 16 T20I innings, Malik has failed to register a double-digit score just once. Malik’s experience and fielding prowess have also helped Pakistan in their dramatic limited-overs revival.
West Indies’ middle-order, which includes Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard and Carlos Brathwaite, is arguably the best in the world. Bravo resurrected West Indies’ innings in the first T20 with a 54-ball 55. But for them to be at their destructive best, West Indies’ top order has to set a base from where the middle order can attack effectively.
Pakistan have no reason to change their winning combination with a whitewash in sight.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Sharjeel Khan, 2 Khalid Latif, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Umar Akmal, 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt & wk), 7 Imad Wasim, 8 Mohammad Nawaz, 9 Wahab Riaz, 10 Sohail Tanvir, 11 Hasan Ali
With the series gone, West Indies may hand Rovman Powell a debut, bringing him in for Nicholas Pooran, who has scores of 5 and 4 in his first two T20Is. West Indies may also rejig their misfiring top order.
West Indies (probable): 1 Johnson Charles, 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Andre Fletcher (wk), 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Carlos Brathwaite (capt), 8 Rovman Powell/Nicholas Pooran, 9 Sunil Narine, 10 Samuel Badree, 11 Jerome Taylor (ESPNCricinfo)
Photo caption: It has not been good a series so far for West Indies in Pakistan
Editor’s note: Match will start at noon (Caribbean time) on Tuesday