West Indies look to end 26-year hoodoo
Pakistan ended a run of four consecutive ODI defeats with a thumping win in the second ODI against the West Indies. In doing so, they ensured that whatever the outcome of the deciding contest, they will remain in the eighth and final automatic qualification place for the 2019 World Cup at the end of the series.
However, this alone is unlikely to satisfy their legion of fans, many of whom had been expecting the series against a significantly weakened West Indies side to be a cakewalk. Instead, it has become a bit of a dogfight, and anything less than a win for Pakistan to protect a proud 26-year unbeaten series record against their hosts would be seen as a failure.
West Indies will bemoan a failure to keep wickets in hand to give themselves a chance of chasing down Pakistan in the second ODI. Much of that was down to a tactically odd – poor, frankly – decision to take the attack to Pakistan’s bowlers right from the start, and continue to do so in spite of losing wickets in clumps.
As such, they were well out of the game before their innings reached the halfway mark, and meant that Ashley Nurse and Jason Holder’s rearguards weren’t going to do any more than restore respectability in defeat. The good news for them is they have one more chance to seal a series win, and because of that, the decider can safely be billed as the biggest limited-overs home game they will play this season.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Evin Lewis has been riding the wave of his 51-ball 91 in the third T20I, but he has endured a frustrating lack of consistency around that knock. He scored 29 runs in three ODIs against England earlier this season, and, aside from that 91, has only managed one international score above 15 this year – 47 in the first ODI against Pakistan.
The 25-year old’s talent is obvious to anyone who remembers his demolition of the Indian bowling attack in Florida last year, where a 49-ball century set his side up for a one-run win. He could be due another explosive innings, and with the series on the line, the third ODI wouldn’t be a bad time to get going.
Sarfraz Ahmed got a fair bit of attention during the second ODI, despite a fairly quiet game both with bat and behind the gloves. What caught people’s eyes (or more accurately, ears) were his bellowed instructions to fielders almost every single ball, and his hands-on approach with the bowlers, particularly Shadab Khan.
Despite Pakistan looking set for a comfortable win, the skipper looked unhappy for most of the West Indies’ innings, and much of the body language appeared, at least to an outsider, to be damagingly negative. The third match is a pressure game, and there will be plenty of focus on the newly appointed ODI captain to get the best out of his side, and whether he changes his approach in order to do that. It hasn’t helped that the 29-year old has had a quiet period with the bat that has carried on from the PSL, and though it has slipped under the radar so far, it is unlikely to remain that way for too much longer.
The only injury concern for the West Indies is Shannon Gabriel, who was seen clutching his hamstring during the second ODI and left the field after finishing his ten overs. The hosts do have a like-for-like replacement in Miguel Cummins, who may make his first appearance this series.
West Indies (possible): 1 Evin Lewis, 2 Chadwick Walton, 3 Kieran Powell, 4 Shai Hope (wk), 5 Jason Mohammad, 6 Jonathan Carter, 7 Jason Holder (capt), 8 Ashley Nurse, 9 Devendra Bishoo, 10 Alzarri Joseph, 11 Miguel Cummins/Shannon Gabriel
Pakistan may decide to stick with the side that levelled the series, especially since there were no glaringly poor performances. Junaid Khan, who came in for Wahab, bowled better than his figures suggested, and is expected to keep his place.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Ahmed Shehzad, 2 Kamran Akmal, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Mohammad Hafeez, 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt & wk), 7 Imad Wasim, 8 Shadab Khan, 9 Mohammad Amir, 10 Hasan Ali, 11 Junaid Khan (ESPNCricinfo)