By Ravi Madholall
While West Indies showed a pathetic display, Pakistan produced an imperious performance in the first T20 at the Kensington Oval, Barbados in the opener last Sunday.
Hence, more challenges for the hosts in the second of the four encounters on Thursday at the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad and Tobago starting from 12:30hrs.
There were plenty of anticipations and expectations from Pakistan who outplayed the Caribbean boys in every department slicing through the top order and subsequently restricted them to an inadequate 111-8 from the allotted 20-overs.
A motivated Pakistan team have many reasons to boost their confidence enormously now with the psychological advantage and their previous series last year when they plastered the West Indians with 3-0 whitewash.
Their collective effort in Barbados was admirable having surged to a commanding six-wicket win and it is doubtless the tourists will be seeking more dominant performances to control the series and take an unassailable lead.
Their bowlers supplied the goods on a docile pitch while the batsmen made the impression of resounding willingness to be sizzling.
The Queen’s Park Oval’s track is hugely expected to be animated and the familiarity with the conditions, West Indies could do enough to square the series and ultimately set-up thrilling affairs in the next two games.
West Indies need though to be cognizant of the opposing supreme batting form especially seeing the likes of one of their veterans Shoiab Malik batted with maturity and profound confidence.
His knock of 38 from 27 balls with three boundaries underlined his belligerent mood and some of his T20 specialist colleagues can be equally dangerous.
However, West Indies bowling lineup resonates a potent composition with mystery off-spinner Sunil Narine would once again call-upon to do the trick.
He bowled nicely and with lots of penetration in the first game and with his fellow Trinidadian compatriot and leg-spinner Samuel Badree able to support, then they should able to create some kind of intimidating pressure.
A part from these two slow-bowlers, West Indies certainly banking their hopes high too on quickies Kesrick Williams and Jason Holder while skipper Carlos Brathwaite and Kieron Pollard have the ability to play a pivotal role with their variable medium-pace bowling.
Their batting has got the potential to pile on formidable total and should be inspired on home turf to churn out match-winning performances.
The top-order showed vulnerability after they were somewhat tottering at 74-7 with openers Evin Lewis (22) and his partner Chadwick Walton (18), Marlon Samuels (07) and Lendl Simmons (01) went back.
They were mesmerized by 18-year-old debutant leg-spinner Shadab Khan, whose variations troubled them terribly. Khan got off auspiciously in this exhilarating format handsomely finishing with three wickets for seven runs from his maximum four overs, an indication of his buoyancy.
Pakistan must be aware of West Indies’ fortune too in this version having won two International Cricket Council (ICC) T20 World Cups, both occasions on foreign soil, and that should entice them to be more competitive.
The regional side could also be that optimistic and confident because they have got two World Cup heroes, Samuel for his batting exploitation and Brathwaite also for his batting flamboyance.
Pakistan can continue to rely on Malik and a plethora of other quality T20 batsmen. Kamran Akmal and his fellow opening batsman Ahmed Shehzad is a perfect combination while the consistent Babar Azam, the reliable Mohammad Hafeez and captain wicketkeeper/batsman Sarfraz Ahmed forms the core of the visiting team batting.
How much the ICC Rankings can play on the minds of these two teams who have currently positioned at number four and six? West Indies, despite their World Cup championship, have slipped to four, a manifestation of their poor performances since the World Cup assignment early last year while Pakistan, a former champion, showed some amount of inconsistency as well.
Once Pakistan call correctly at the toss, they definitely have no hesitation of inviting West Indies to take first strike. In Barbados, they won the toss and asked the hosts to bat first, and that decision was fully vindicated as their bowlers demonstrated the anxiousness to make early in-roads.
Interesting to see if West Indies winning the toss tis time and what the decision would be owing to the fact they have some pugnacious T20 batsmen.