By Ravi Madholall
Interesting to see the methodology of the Pakistani bowlers against West Indies as they are set to begin their three-match test series with the opener on Friday at the Sabina Park facility in Kingston, Jamaica and both teams will be looking for an early lead.
Pakistan certainly will have the psychological edge ahead after their commanding performances in the preceding 3-1 win in the T20 version and then the 2-1 victory in the 50-overs format.
Adding to that, the tourists should be optimistic of more outstanding displays with the momentum of having placed high at number 5 on the International Cricket Council test rankings while West Indies languishing at number 8.
Pakistan undoubtedly will take out lots of positives having emerged the winner the last time these two teams would have clashed in the five-day game in Dubai where the hosts winning 2-0, last year and induce a façade of confidence too.
With a Plethora of their seasoned campaigners are ready to showcase their skills again and two of their stalwarts will be bowing out of test cricket, anxiety is likely to surface.
Younis Khan and skipper Mishab-ul-Haq have announced their retirement which will go into effect at the completion of this series; the guys should have the excitement to see two of their greats having a memorable farewell time in the Caribbean.
However, their performances in the three-day warm-up match against a West Indies Cricket Board President’s X1 several days ago were under-par with seven and eight respectively.
The visitors were quite pathetic with the ball as the President’s X1 piled on a massive 419 in their first innings and was 152-2 when the game mutually came to an end. Pakistan, in their only appearance at the crease, scored 192 with Ahmed Shedzad and Sarfraz Ahmed producing a measurable fifty each.
The West Indies side could be motivational now to continue from where the second-string side left off, thanks to Guyanese left-hander Vishal Singh’s resilient century (135) while other impactful contributions came from his compatriot and opener Shimron Hetmyer who made 97. Kieran Powell, who had a break from the game, is back with bang chalking two half-centuries in this encounter. The left-hander showed sublime form with 58 and 84 not out.
These are obvious concerns for the Pakistanis bowlers having conceded this formidable total. Their most experienced fast-bowler Mohammad Amir was spot on by claiming three wickets for 66 runs in 22.1 overs when they bowled first but the others delivered with little and unimpressive control especially their premier leg-spinner Yasir Shah, who grabbed two wickets but was expensive with 129 runs from 37 overs.
A lot of attention will be on Khan and ul-Haq. Khan, a veteran, is a mere 23 runs away of becoming the first batsman from his country to achieve 10, 000 test runs while his skipper Ul-Haq has been a fantastic leader over the years and doesn’t suppress any thoughts of being a consistent performer.
Sabina Park venue 50th test
Sabina Park pitch is expected to be animated and could see a result here but significantly the venue will be hosting its 50th test match since it was first used for this version in 1930.
Despite there were abandonment of matches owing to some unprepared pitches, the ground can still be seen as a fascinating facility as well after some historical performances from both the West Indies and foreign teams in test cricket. Sir Garfield Sobers, the versatile, legendary West Indian batsman scored his 365 at Sabina to be among the historical accomplishments witnessed at this ground.
The toss is important for both Pakistan and West Indies since the hosts’ captain would want to have a bat first probably cognizant of the fact that majority of his batsmen in a prolific form.
Teams are as follows: West Indies (possible) 1 Kraigg Brathwaite, 2 Kieran Powell, 3 Shimron Hetmyer/Shai Hope, 4 Vishaul Singh, 5 Jermaine Blackwood, 6 Roston Chase, 7 Shane Dowrich (wk), 8. Jason Holder (capt), 9 Devendra Bishoo, 10 Alzarri Joseph, 11 Shannon Gabriel.
Pakistan (probable) 1 Azhar Ali, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Asad Shafiq, 7 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 8 Shadab Khan, 9 Mohammad Amir, 10 Wahab Riaz, 11 Yasir Shah