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Brittle batting worries both teams
Another wicket” read a placard in the stands at Providence on Sunday. The message might have been banal, but the fan got what he asked for regularly in the first ODI as the batting frailties of the two teams were once again exposed. In mitigation, the track aided both the spinners and the quicks, and Misbah-ul-Haq went on to call it one of the toughest he has ever played on.
Still, in Pakistan’s last 10 ODIs, only once has the score touched 100 with less than three wickets down, and that one time came against lightweights Ireland. Pakistan fielded a new-look batting order in the first ODI but the scorecard still had an all-too-familiar look midway through the innings.
West Indies have faced similar problems, and it is only the home series against Zimbabwe that provides some respectability to the stats of several batsmen. All the big names, so sought after in Twenty20 leagues around the world, have floundered in ODIs this year – not one among Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard have averaged even 25 in 2013. What’s more, the only batsman they have in the squad to replace someone in the XI is Devon Smith, who has two ducks in his only ODIs in the past fortnight.
More than any careful innings construction over 50 overs, West Indies seem to hope for one of their outrageously talented batsmen to pull off a special performance, like the returning Shahid Afridi did for Pakistan in the first match. The need for a stabiliser in the midst of the array of volatile hitters remains pressing, but the batsman to fill that role remains elusive. Tuesday’s game will be played on the same track as Sunday’s, which means the batsmen are set for another difficult day.
Unlike the past couple of weeks in the Caribbean, though, the forecast is for a mostly sunny day on Tuesday. Another change from the first game is that the DRS is expected to be in place, with Hawk-Eye and Ultramotion.
Shahid Afridi turned in one of the great one-day performances in his comeback game on Sunday, the sort of magical effort hardly any other player can conjure. His loyal and vocal fans are quick to highlight these peaks, but there are a equal number of doubters who point to Afridi’s infuriating inconsistency. Expecting steady reliability from Afridi is unfair, but the time has come for him to show that these crests won’t be followed by extended troughs.
Sunil Narine is the world’s top-ranked ODI bowler. Yet, in his previous two ODIs, he hasn’t been anywhere near bowling his full quota of overs. Against Pakistan, on a track with plenty of juice in it, he was taken apart by Afridi, and was used for only three overs. Just three overs from a specialist bowler? Time to bring back some of that early mystery which brought him such success.
Pakistan made a raft of changes to their side before the first ODI, so it is unlikely they will shuffle the side much ahead of this game. Fast bowler Junaid Khan and batsman Umar Amin are two players who will be hoping to get a look-in.
Pakistan: (probable) 1 Nasir Jamshed, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Mohammad Hafeez, 4 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 5 Asad Shafiq, 6 Umar Akmal (wk), 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Wahab Riaz, 9 Asad Ali, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Mohammad Irfan
It may have been a humiliating defeat for West Indies on Sunday, but they don’t have too many options in the squad.
West Indies: (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Johnson Charles (wk), 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Lendl Simmons, 5 Marlon Samuels, 6 Dwayne Bravo (capt), 7 Kieron Pollard, 8 Darren Sammy, 9 Kemar Roach/Tino Best, 10 Sunil Narine, 11 Jason Holder
Stats and trivia
- Shahid Afridi now has 30 ODI Man-of-the-Match awards, equal with Aravinda de Silva and Brian Lara*. If he gets two more, the only players ahead of him will be Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya
- West Indies are Misbah-ul-Haq’s favourite opposition – he averages 79.33 against them in 11 ODIs
- In bilateral series between Pakistan and West Indies, no team which won the first ODI has lost the series
Courtesy: ESPN CRICINFO