Hasan Ali and co. made the hosts dig deep in the washed-out first T20I
A Covid-19 case got one T20I between West Indies and Pakistan cancelled, while Bajan weather took care of the other. That means what was set to be a luxuriant, slow-burn five-match series has instead turned into a snappy best of three, with little room for either side to put a foot wrong. The players spent the two days in between shuttling over from Barbados to Guyana, with Providence Stadium hosting all three matches.
The nine overs that were managed on Wednesday might have appeared pointless on the scorecard, but both sides will have learned plenty from them. For Pakistan, it’s a shot in the arm for a bowling unit that head coach Misbah-ul-Haq admitted was below par in the recently concluded England series. The entire innings was a test of the visitors’ new-ball skills as well as death-overs ability, and on both counts there will be little cause for complaint.
Hasan Ali’s return makes the bowling unit significantly more potent, while Mohammad Wasim, making his debut in difficult circumstances, made Chris Gayle his first T20I scalp. Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan and Usman Qadir only bowled an over each, but kept the runs down and picked up a couple of wickets amongst them for good measure.
Babar Azam’s men might be well served not to get too smug about that performance, though, with West Indies sure to shrug it off as an occasional blip. The panoply of potential power-hitting in the home side means there will be days oppositions are blown out of the water through no fault of their own, and that means West Indies play each T20I on their own terms.
If only two or three of Evin Lewis, Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Kieron Pollard and Nicholas Pooran find their range, Pakistan could see games taken out of their hands entirely. With the bowling having wilted in the face of ferocious hitting in England, West Indies will be cognisant of a potential frailty they could take advantage of.
There is, of course, an element of experimentation woven into the fabric of this series, with each side looking to stitch together a combination that gives them the best chance at the T20 World Cup. Some might argue that makes the results less important than the process, but little could be more useful for Pakistan than heading into that competition with an away series win against the defending champions. Similarly, West Indies got back on track with a thumping series win over Australia, and will want to put as much psychological distance as possible between this side and a series defeat at South Africa’s hands earlier this month. Besides, with Pakistan having proven their bogey side over the years, a first T20I series win over them should do West Indies confidence little harm.
West Indies: WLWWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Kieron Pollard – and the weather rescued West Indies in the first T20I, which was reduced to nine overs due to persistent rain. Theoretically, that should have been ideal for the home side’s power-hitters, except nearly all of them found themselves on a leash against an impressive performance by Hasan and the rest of Pakistan’s bowlers. Despite the nature of the game, no other batsman managed a strike rate north of 130, and Pollard – whose nine-ball 22 took his side to a respectable 85 – will be aware of the increased responsibility on his shoulders to ensure his side don’t find themselves in the same predicament. How Pakistan try to stifle the one batsman who had the better of them should be enthralling viewing in a full-length T20I.
It’d be unlikely for West Indies to change too much just yet. Lendl Simmons might sit out, if he hasn’t shaken off the blow to the neck that forced him to retire hurt, which would bring Andre Fletcher back into the mix.
West Indies (possible): 1 Lendl Simmons/Andre Fletcher 2 Evin Lewis 3 Chris Gayle 4 Shimron Hetmyer 5 Nicholas Pooran (wk) 6 Andre Russell 7 Kieron Pollard (capt) 8 Jason Holder 9 Dwayne Bravo 10 Haydn Walsh 11 Akeal Hosein
Pakistan should be unchanged after enjoying the better of what little cricket was played.
Pakistan: (possible): 1 Mohammad Rizwan (wk) 2 Sharjeel Khan 3 Babar Azam (capt) 4 Fakhar Zaman 5 Mohammad Hafeez 6 Azam Khan 7 Shadab Khan 8 Hasan Ali 9 Mohammad Wasim 10 Usman Qadir 11 Shaheen Shah Afridi
Pitch and conditions
Showers are predicted throughout the week, so another rain-affected game is a real possibility. However, the forecast suggests a window of clearer weather around 11am, the scheduled start time, so the game could get underway on time after all.
Stats and trivia
- Providence Stadium has only ever hosted one T20I outside of the World T20 in 2010. It saw India beat West Indies by seven wickets in 2019.
- Kieron Pollard needs three wickets to become the 11th man to reach 300 T20 wickets. Two of the others are part of this current West Indies side: Andre Russel (325) and the all-time leader Dwayne Bravo (530).
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000