The two unpredictables face off

PREVIEW: Pakistan vs West Indies, the Champions Trophy Match at the Oval on June 7 (Friday). The Match starts at 2.30pmPST and 10.30am Local Time.
Mazher Arshad - The Oval, London
June 6, 2013

The Backdrop

Pakistan and West Indies are the two most unpredictable teams in the limited-overs cricket. If this belief needed any justification, Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq provided it by acknowledging it on the eve of their first match of ICC Champions Trophy. “These two teams depend on the talent and they are similar in this way,” said Misbah when he was asked if Pakistan and West Indies were identical teams when it comes to unpredictability.

Pakistan captain and coach walk back to dressing room after the practice session ahead of first match against West Indies (Photo: CRICLENS)

Pakistan arguably had the best preparations in lead up to this tournament. Their players didn’t waste energies in the IPL, had a physical training camp in Abbottabad and arrived in the United Kingdom quite before other teams, save the host England and New Zealand.

On papers Pakistan appear to be better team than West Indies but as both the teams rely heavily on the individual performances on the given day none of the two can be deemed favourites ahead of their first match. Pakistan would want to not carry any memories from Champions Trophy 2004 Semi Final they played against West Indies in this very country. These two teams have met each other three times in this competition, with West Indies winning twice in 1998 and 2004 (the Semi Final mentioned above) whereas Pakistan’s only win came in the last tournament in 2009 when they were up against a second-string West Indies team.

Misbah also said if they win this match it would ease out the pressure to make into the Semis before they take on the big guns South Africa and India.

The contest, Ajmal vs Gayle

It was a month ago in Abbottabad when Saeed Ajmal was asked how would he tackle Chris Gayle, who was having a dream run in the IPL. Ajmal riposted saying he is the number one spinner [now he is number two] and the team is working on the strategies to counter Gayle. Both of these players are the pillars of their teams. Gayle is coming into the event on the back of a fine IPL season. Ajmal didn’t have best of times in the matches against Ireland still he remains Pakistan’s trump card on any given day, particularly against the team like West Indies who tend to struggle against spin, evident by Pakistan’s tour to West Indies in 2011.

Weather and conditions

The last two days in London were bright and sunny and the forecast for match day is same. The weather can’t be more ideal than that to play Cricket in England. The 22-yard-strip is said to be good for batting but as it is a day match there could be some early assistance for the pacers.

Team news

As it happens so often, Pakistan team management didn’t throw any lowdown regarding the playing XI. Pakistan face dilemma in selecting three fast bowlers. Asad Ali made a fine debut against Ireland and seems to be in good shape, Wahab Riaz won the match against Ireland with his batting and the warm up against South Africa with bowling. Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan remain Pakistan’s first two choices. Who will be the third pacer? It will be answered only at the toss.

Pakistan squad: Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Farhat, Nasir Jamshed, Kamran Akmal, Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Shoaib Malik, Asad Shafiq, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan, Asad Ali, Wahab Riaz, Umer Amin, Abdur Rehman, Ehsan Adil.

West Indies squad: Devon Smith, Denesh Ramdin, Chris Gayle, Johnson Charles, Jason Holder, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Dwayne Bravo (captain), Kieron Pollard, Ravi Rampaul, Sunil Narine, Kemar Roach, Tino Best, Darren Sammy

Stats and Trivia

- Misbah-ul-Haq, at 39, will be the most aged player in this Champions Trophy that is because Trent Jhontson, for that matter Ireland, is not participating in the event.

-It is third time in Champions Trophies that Pakistan and West Indies are playing their first match against each other. Previously, they played in 1998 and 2009. In addition to that they have also done it thrice in Cricket World Cups, in 1992, 1999 and 2007.

Exclusive interview and pictures

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq talked to Criclens before departing for Champions Trophy and shared his views. The interview can be read here. The pictures from the match eve here at Criclens facebook page.

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