Pakistan favourites against WI in day-night Test
Pakistan are no longer the No. 1 Test team, having lost the top ranking to India, but they still retain the sense of being champions. They are set to play their 400th Test match, a landmark game in more than one way since it will be played with a pink ball, under lights, at the Dubai International Stadium.
It will be only the second ever day-night Test, following the Australia-New Zealand match in Adelaide last year.
First-class matches have been played under lights in both Pakistan and West Indies, but the experience is still a new one for most of the players from both sides. The visibility of the ball post-dusk has been a talking point, particularly with the pink ball sporting a black seam, but there is more excitement than anxiety among the players in the lead-up to the Test.
The UAE has previous experience of staging pink-ball cricket, having hosted the English first-class season-opener between MCC and the champion county under lights multiple times since 2010. Those matches, however, were all played at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Dubai is hosting its first pink-ball match, and it will be interesting to see if the stadium, which has a capacity of 25,000, can draw sizeable crowds for the Test match.
Pakistan sit comfortably ahead of West Indies in the rankings table and are playing in familiar conditions, but they will guard against complacency. They will be without their best batsman, Younis Khan, who is resting after recovering from dengue fever, and are likely to feature two debutants as well as a new-look combination with five specialist batsmen and an allrounder slotting into a five-man bowling attack.
West Indies lost their most recent Test series 2-0, at home against India, and the margin could have been worse if not for rain. They haven’t begun this tour well either, having been whitewashed in both the ODI and T20 series, and it will not be a surprise if they suffer another 3-0 reverse in the Tests.
But they have gained a bit of confidence from their two warm-up games, in which as many as six of their batsmen – Leon Johnson, Shai Hope (twice), Jermaine Blackwood, Shane Dowrich, Kraigg Brathwaite and Darren Bravo – made half-centuries, while their bowlers also got among the wickets. It remains to be seen, though, if the No. 8-ranked Test team can make any sort of dent in Pakistan’s proud record in the UAE.
In the spotlight
Babar Azam announced himself with three back-to-back hundreds in the ODI series, and Younis Khan’s absence will allow him to showcase his talents at Test level. Pakistan have a strong batting group, and Babar will need to extend his ODI form into his Test debut to make it hard for the team management to leave him out when Younis returns.
Darren Bravo struggled in the home Tests against India, but he will be encouraged by the fact that his overseas average (51.18) far exceeds his average at home (29.35).
He comes into the series with a bit of form behind him, with an innings of 61 in the second ODI and a 97 for the West Indians in their tour game against the PCB Patron’s XI in Sharjah. Leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo also impressed in that match, picking up a five-wicket haul in the first innings, and will be relied on to do a lot of bowling if he plays. (ESPNCricinfo)
NB: The match will get underway at 07:30h (Caribbean time) on Thursday
Photo caption: Captains Jason Holder and Misbah-ul-Haq pose with the series trophy