West Indies seek batting lift in second Test against Pakistan
The agonisingly tense denouement to the first Test between these sides would be enough to inject life into any series, and the shot in the arm West Indies gained from that thrilling one-wicket win should serve them extremely well.
Having struggled in the format over recent years, it felt like the sort of Test West Indies tend to end up on the wrong side of, and when Kemar Roach nudged one through the covers to send the Caribbean into raptures, you might be tempted to wonder if this was something of a new beginning.
It helps that the victory was timed as sweetly as a Jason Holder extra-cover drive, coming as it does right at the start of this World Test Championship cycle. It catapults West Indies to second spot on the table, but against a dispirited Pakistan, the second Test represents an ideal opportunity for a perfect start to this two-year period.
West Indies were by no means perfect, which of course indicates there’s room for improvement. But having outbowled Pakistan for significant periods of the Test, Phil Simmons’ side will be aware they have to keep up that quality when it comes to fast bowling, while working out how to put more runs on the board.
The coach had been vocal about calling on his batters to improve, and after that first Test, it’s not hard to see why. There might not be too many changes in personnel, but with the home side’s top order capitulating in both innings, there remains the risk of a wounded Pakistan bowling unit looking to rip through an innings.
There’s been an uneasy calm in the days that followed that Pakistan defeat, but likely little appetite for stomaching another one. Pakistan will feel disconsolate at the manner in which they let the game slip out of their grasp, given the multitude of opportunities they had to put distance between the sides on the first three days, and clear-cut opportunities to seal it on the last.
Individual errors aside, Pakistan’s opening pair looks well short of the quality required at this level, with the extra burden that places on the middle order leaving the side looking unbalanced.
The complete lack of influence spin bowling played in that first Test came as something of a surprise. With both sides opting to field a spinner, it’s clear that startled the teams, too, with all 39 wickets falling to the quick bowlers.
With the second Test to be played at the same venue, under similar conditions, team selection around spin options might be something worth watching out for.
Kieran Powell’s dual failure could bring Shai Hope into the picture, with Jomel Warrican’s place in the XI also under scrutiny. Chemar Holder, Alzarri Joseph, or even Rahkeem Cornwall are options should West Indies want a different kind of spinner.
West Indies (probable): 1 Kraigg Brathwaite (capt), 2 Kieron Powell/Shai Hope, 3 Nkrumah Bonner, 4 Jermaine Blackwood, 5 Roston Chase, 6 Kyle Mayers, 7 Jason Holder, 8 Joshua Da Silva (wk), 9 Alzarri Joseph/Chemar Holder, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Jayden Seales
Pakistan must also wrestle with the Yasir Shah conundrum, and determine whether his ineffectiveness in the first Test was a function of the pitch or his own lack of form and confidence.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Abid Ali, 2 Imran Butt, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Babar Azam (capt), 5 Fawad Alam, 6 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 7 Faheem Ashraf, 8 Hasan Ali, 9 Yasir Shah/Nauman Ali, 10 Mohammad Abbas, 11 Shaheen Afridi (ESPNcricinfo)