With plenty of bowling options in its ranks, Pakistan will once again need to fire with the bat. -Photo by AFP
Match: West Indies v Pakistan (2nd Match Group B, ICC Champions Trophy)
Venue: Kennington Oval, London.
Date & Time: 7th June, 2013, 14:30 PST / 09:30 GMT
Overall Rivalry: Pakistan 52 wins, West Indies 66 wins, 2 Tied
Weather Report: Mostly sunny skies are expected with a high 22C. Strong winds will blow ENE at 16 to 32 km/ph. Humidity could be up to 60% with no chances of rain.
Ground Report: The home of Surrey County Cricket Club was the first ground in the United Kingdom and second in the world (after the MCG) to host Test cricket. This ground is noted as having the first floodlights at a sport arena in the form of gas-lamps dating back to 1889. Teams have traditionally preferred to win the toss and bowl first but 25 games have been won by the toss winning captain and 25 have been lost. 250 should be a par score on a pitch that will hold true through the day.
Game On: The last edition of the Champions Trophy is finally on. Pakistan has never reached the final of the competition but has made it to six consecutive semi finals. Whereas West Indies have played three finals out of a total of six ever held, including a win in 2006.
Initially, what started as a knock out tournament in 1998 still needs a team to possibly win only four consecutive games to win the trophy, in its current format. This gives it an element of surprise, any team can win.
The PCB has done a good job by giving the Pakistani team enough time to acclimatize to the environment in the United Kingdom. Their batsmen have had the opportunity to play against the associate nations and have spent some valuable time out in the middle. Similarly, their inexperienced bowling attack has had the chance to assess the conditions and adjusts their lines and length accordingly. The high-pressure games against Ireland would have also been a good learning curve for the relatively young Pakistani side.
Pakistan has gone in with an inexperienced squad but their Captain Misbah-ul-Haq has done a good job to shepherd them in the last couple of years. Their star all-rounder Shahid Afridi is missing while their top ranked batsman Umar Akmal has also been left out due to a poor run of form. However, it is the absence of their experienced spearhead Umar Gul that will hurt most.
Pakistan has surprisingly picked a lopsided squad with plenty of bowling options but no batsmen on the bench. While Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan should be automatic selections, Wahab Riaz, Ehsan Adil and Asad Ali will fight to fill the slot for the third fast bowler. It is unlikely for Abdur Rehman to get a go during the event. All the batsmen on tour have to be selected in every game because of the lack of options. Umar Amin and Shoaib Malik could be competing for the position for the lower order batsman that also gives an extra bowling option. While Umar Amin’s medium pace could be handy in English conditions, given the experience, Shoaib Malik is expected to have the edge.
West Indies have had very ordinary results with the team under Darren Sammy and will look to improve their results with Dwayne Bravo in charge. They go in as the lowest ranked team of the competition with the odds stacked up against them. However, they continue to have plenty of Caribbean spark within their ranks. The likes of Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine can turn around a game on its head and win matches single-handedly.
Game Changer: It will be an interesting battle between Pakistan’s trump card Saeed Ajmal and West Indian ace Sunil Narine. Both teams highly depend on these two magicians and how they perform might significantly impact this game.
Pre-Game Talk: "I'd say it's special for us because a lot of fans here are for the Pakistan cricket team." Captain Misbah expects the Pakistani supporters to come in large numbers.
"It would be a great achievement to win this tournament. When we won back in 2004 we came in as underdogs. We want to repeat that." Ramnaresh Sarwan has been there, done that.
Last XI Fielded West Indies: Kieran Powell, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Darren Bravo, Narsingh Deonarine, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo (capt), Denesh Ramdin (wk), Kemar Roach, Tino Best, Sunil Narine, V Permaul
Last XI Fielded Pakistanis: Imran Farhat, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Asad Shafiq, Nasir Jamshed, Kamran Akmal, Ehsan Adil, Junaid Khan, Abdur Rehman, Asad Ali.
West Indies: 6’8” Jason Holder will look to find space for himself giving West Indies an extra dimension in the fast bowling attack.
Pakistan: Wahab Riaz and Asad Ali will compete for the third fast bowler’s position. The rest of the team should select itself.
Final Words: In a short tournament there is no room for error. Both teams need to come out firing on all cylinders. Their next two games will be against South Africa and India and things will only get tougher.