Preview: Pakistan look to make it three out of three against Windies today
PORT OF SPAIN – Pakistan will look to make it three out of three against West Indies and take the series as the two teams meet on Saturday for the third of four Twenty20 Internationals at Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain.
Pakistan struggled with the bat and was reduced to 95 for 8 with Sunil Narine (3 for 22) and Samuel Badree (2 for 14) doing the bulk of the damage in the second game. But the visiting side dragged itself to 132 with a 36-run stand between Wahab Riaz and Shadab Khan for the ninth wicket. It seemed a modest total but West Indies, led by Marlon Samuels’s 44, fell short by three runs. Shadab again headlined the win and proved his performance in the first game was no fluke as he finished with 4 for 14, including the wicket of Samuels.
Stuart Law, West Indies’ head coach, held the batsmen accountable for the defeat and urged them to convert their starts. “We’re slowly improving, we played a better game of cricket today,” he said after the second defeat, which made it five in a row for Pakistan over the world champion.
“Marlon Samuels was outstanding. Chadwick Walton was pretty good as well. We needed someone to put their hand up in the back-end of the innings, to stick with Marlon and finish the job off. Carlos (Brathwaite), Sunil Narine and Jason Holder nearly pulled off a victory.
“Apart from Marlon, no one has really gone in and got the scores. We’ve got starts, but no one has gone on. Fingers crossed on Saturday that we turn up and play a proper game of cricket.”
Shadab, still not 19, has kept the batsmen guessing with his mix of leg-breaks and googlies, which also netted him 3 for 7 in the first game, but Law felt his side was guilty of playing too conservatively against him. “We need to come up with better execution, that’s what it boils down to,” he explained. “He’s bowled very well. I think we’ve gifted him some wickets as well. We just need to be a bit more ruthless against him and see what transpires after that.”
West Indies’ middle order folded tamely, the experienced duo of Lendl Simmons and Kieron Pollard falling for one and three respectively, while Rovman Powell fell for a duck. Touted as the next big thing, Powell has had a tepid start to his international career, averaging 2.5 in the two T20Is and 19.25 in four One-Day Internationals, but Law stressed that it was important to keep in mind that he was just 23 years old.
“It’s a difficult game, international cricket. It’s a different mentality, different pressure out in the middle,” stressed Law. “He’s a young man and he has a lot of talent. Things take time. Unfortunately we really want kids to come in, play their first game, make a hundred and take a five-for. It doesn’t always happen. Good things come to those who wait. If we keep working hard with Rov, I’m sure he’s got the talent to get through.”
While West Indies has quite a bit to sort out, Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik have done enough to paper over Pakistan’s own batting cracks. Still, it doesn’t reflect well on the rest that the side had to rely on its No. 9 and 10 batsmen to save it the blushes.
A nasty on-field collision between Walton and Ahmed Shehzad when West Indies was batting saw the latter stretchered off. But the fact that he was back on the field a few overs later suggested there were no pressing fitness issues.
In any case, Shahzad, along with fellow comeback man Kamran Akmal, haven’t covered themselves in glory since their return to the side and will want to deliver sooner than later.
The fourth and final game will be played at the same venue on April 2.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt, wk), Ahmed Shehzad, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Fakhar Zaman, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanvir, Rumman Raees, Hasan Ali, Usman Khan.
West Indies: Carlos Brathwaite (capt), Samuel Badree, Jonathan Carter, Andre Fletcher, Jason Holder, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Sunil Narine, Veerasammy Permaul, Kieron Pollard, Rovman Powell, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Jerome Taylor, Chadwick Walton (wk), Keswick Williams.