Wednesday, September 28, 2022

West Indies hope to break 26-year jinx against Pakistan in final ODI

West Indies hope to break 26-year jinx against Pakistan in final ODI

PROVIDENCE (92 News) – It has been more than a quarter of a century since West Indies last defeated Pakistan in a bilateral One-Day International series.

Under Richie Richardson in November 1991, the Caribbeans overwhelmed Pakistan 2-0 in the latter’s backyard in a three-match series, the second match in Lahore ending in a tie after Imran Khan, the Pakistan skipper, made a crucial 51.

Jason Holder doesn’t have the same stature as Richardson, but he now finds himself in an excellent position to end that barren run when he leads his side out for the third and final ODI against Sarfraz Ahmed’s team at National Stadium in Providence on Tuesday (April 11).

The sides are all square after splitting the first two games, and even though West Indies is without several of its top limited-overs players and Pakistan appears the stronger, more balanced team, one final push could swing the series the home side’s way.

Having mounted its first ever successful chase of over 300 in the first ODI on Friday, West Indies came unstuck in Sunday’s second match after having controlled proceedings for a large part of the Pakistani innings.

Put in to bat, Pakistan was in trouble at 128 for 4, and then 183 for 5 towards the end of the 39th over, but Babar Azam then fashioned an inevitable century against his favourite opposition to take the game away from the home side.

Azam has five ODI hundreds now, and four of them have come against West Indies. Holder’s big challenge will be to shackle the Pakistan No 3 who averages upwards of 95 when he bats at one-drop – where his lowest score is 31 in nine innings, and from where he has all his five tons to date.

West Indies had things in check till such time that Ashley Nurse, the off-spinner, and Devendra Bishoo, the leg-spinner, were in operation. Together, the two spinners combined for 2 for 82 from 20 overs, but when the pacers returned for their final spells, they conceded more runs in the last seven overs-84-than the spinners did in their entire complement.

That is something Holder would have taken note of. Whether that will encourage him to bolster his spin resources, or to use his bowlers differently, remains to be seen.

West Indies will also expect more from its top order, which was passable in the first game when it overhauled Pakistan’s 308 for 5, but was blown away on Sunday. Through a combination of pace and Mohammad Hafeez’s remodelled off-spin, Pakistan reduced West Indies to 75 for 6 after having ridden on Azam’s unbeaten 125 to post 282 for 5. From thereon, only one team was in the hunt, even though Nurse and Holder, who made an ODI best 68, fought on gamely late in the match.

Hasan Ali was the destroyer-in-chief with 5 for 38, his second five-for in ODIs that saw him bounce back strongly from the battering in the first game, when he went for 43 in his five overs. Hafeez has been economical in both games, but Pakistan hasn’t seen the best yet of Mohammad Amir, the fiery left-arm quick, and Shadab Khan, the leg-spinner who took 10 wickets in the preceding four-match Twenty20 International series which the visiting side won 3-1.

Kamran Akmal has been a mixed bag on his return to the ODI set-up after nearly four years in the wilderness. Pitch-forked to open the batting alongside Ahmed Shehzad, he has come up with scores of 47 and 21 so far. Akmal must be itching to prove a point, having been left out of the Test squad despite amassing a tournament-high 1035 runs in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Pakistan’s top first-class competition.

There is plenty of depth and quality in the Pakistan line-up, but West Indies will be most wary of the threat Azam’s broad willow poses. If he can be removed cheaply, it could just be the catalyst West Indies needs to stamp its authority in Sarfraz’s first series as full-time ODI skipper.

The teams are also jostling for positions on the ICC ranking table in a bid to qualify directly for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup – Pakistan is at No 8, just ahead of its opponent – so there is more than just a series victory at stake.

Teams (from)

Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt, wk), Ahmed Shehzad, Kamran Akmal, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan, Asif Zakir, Fahim Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Asghar, Wahab Riaz.

West Indies: Jason Holder (capt), Evin Lewis, Chadwick Walton, Shai Hope (wk), Kieran Powell, Jonathan Carter, Jason Mohammed, Ashley Nurse, Devendra Bishoo, Alzarri Joseph, Shannon Gabriel, Miguel Cummins, Rovman Powell.