Spin duo Yasir, Zulfiqar to test Windies batsmen in first D/N Test in Asia today
DUBAI (92 News) – The excitement of playing the first pink-ball Test on Asian soil will be tempered by the threat Pakistan’s spin twins pose as West Indies seeks a dramatic turnaround in fortunes on what has been a disappointing tour of the United Arab Emirates thus far.
Overwhelmed 3-0 in both the preceding Twenty20 International and One-Day International series, West Indies must prepare for a trial by spin when the three-match Test series starts at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Thursday.
The day-night Test will be the first experience of playing with a pink ball in international cricket for both Pakistan, the home side, and West Indies. A black seam aimed at improving visibility is the only change to the ball from the inaugural pink-ball Test at the Adelaide Oval last November between Australia and New Zealand, an overwhelming success given that it attracted 123,000 fans to the ground and an estimated global television audience of two million.
Pakistan will start strong favourites, not just because of its commanding displays in the limited-overs matches but also because it held its own against a strong England side in its own backyard in the four-Test series in August that ended in a 2-2 stalemate. That result briefly catapulted Misbahul Haq’s men to the No 1 spot in the ICC Test rankings for the first time ever, and even though it has since ceded that status to India, Pakistan will look to close the gap on the top-ranked Test side with another dominant show in the Test matches.
The spin duo of Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar might prove too much for the spin-wary West Indian batsmen, especially in the unfamiliar day-night format with the pink ball and under lights. It will be Pakistan’s 400th Test match since its first game in India in 1952, and a win will cap a historic occasion.
Misbah said he was relishing the prospect of a day-night Test. “It’s exciting because I think the future belongs to day-night Tests,” said Misbah, whose team will be without Younis Khan, recovering from dengue fever.
It was a sentiment echoed by Azhar Ali, the Pakistani ODI skipper. “It’s a different challenge but we’re all excited about it and I think it will be very exciting for the crowd as well to come and watch this game,” he said.
Pakistan has included Babar Azam, 21, for his first Test after he racked up 360 runs during the ODI series against West Indies. But Mohammad Hafeez and Shan Masood, the misfiring openers, have been axed from the squad which levelled the four-match Test series against England.
West Indies comes in as clear underdog, having also lost a four-match home series to India 0-2 in July-August. But Jason Holder, the captain, said West Indies – placed eighth in the Test rankings – is ready to bounce back. “We have some new faces in Tests, so we will do our best,” said Holder.
Darren Bravo, one of the more experienced West Indian batsmen, admitted that the pink ball would pose different challenges. “I think most of the guys have complained about the fact that they’re not really able to pick up the seam that well,” he said. “I don’t know for whatever reason, but we can’t do anything about it.
“We played a couple first-class (day-night) games back home,” Bravo said. “It had a few crowds. Most of the guys had their take on it. It had some positive feedback, it had some negative feedback to be honest but whatever is put in place to encourage a crowd is definitely beneficial to Test cricket.”
The remaining two Tests, played with the traditional red ball in natural light, will be in Abu Dhabi (October 21-25) and Sharjah (October 30-November 3).
Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Azhar Ali, Sami Aslam, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Zulfiqar Babar, Rahat Ali, Sohail Khan, Imran Khan.
West Indies: Jason Holder (capt), Kraigg Brathwaite, Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood, Carlos Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich (wk), Shannon Gabriel, Shai Hope, Leon Johnson, Alzarri Joseph, Marlon Samuels, Jomel Warrican.