Struggling champions West Indies face torrid England test

Published October 23, 2021
West Indies Chris Gayle (L) plays a shot as England's wicketkeeper Jos Buttler looks on. — Reuters/File
West Indies Chris Gayle (L) plays a shot as England's wicketkeeper Jos Buttler looks on. — Reuters/File

DUBAI: West Indies will hope to raise their game by a few notches when the two-time struggling champions open their campaign against favourites England in the Super 12 match of the T20 World Cup in Dubai on Saturday.

A team packed with some of the most destructive T20 players, the West Indies cut a sorry figure in the two warm-up games against Pakistan and Afghanistan and would need to quickly shrug off the disappointment ahead of the tournament proper.

It was poor batting which cost them both the practice matches. While against Pakistan, the Caribbean side failed to put up a fighting total, scoring a modest 130 for 7, Kieron Pollard’s men managed 133-5 in their chase of 189 against Afghanistan.

Roston Chase’s 54 off 58 balls against Afghanistan was the only highlight of their batting as none of the other batters could capitalise on their starts in both the matches.

Pollard showed some spark when he hit a 10-ball 23 with five boundaries against Pakistan and his finishing skills will play a big role for the team in the tournament.

The West Indies will need the likes of Evin Lewis, Lendl Simmons, Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran to fire to make a good start and win at least three group matches to qualify for the semifinals.

One of the major concerns for West Indies is the form of ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle, who scored just 165 runs in 9 innings in the Caribbean Premier League and featured in just two games for Punjab Kings in the UAE leg of the IPL.

Experienced all-rounder Andre Russell too has had frequent fitness issues, the latest being a hamstring injury. He played only three games for Kolkata Knight Riders in UAE.

There is not much to write home about their bowling either with spinner Hayden Walsh (2-41) and left-arm pacer Obed McCoy (2-43) being their most successful bowlers in the two practice games.

With Oshane Thomas in the ranks, pace still looks better than their spin department which features the likes of Fabian Allen, Chase and Akeal Hosein.

“So for us it’s about trying to hit the ground running, start off on a positive note, get those first two points and see what happens,” said Pollard ahead of the England fixture.

England, on the other hand, are the reigning world champions in ODI cricket and will be itching to put the ghosts of the 2016 edition to rest when Carlos Brathwaite had smashed four successive sixes in the final to end their dreams at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.

Up against the same opponents, Eoin Morgan’s men will look to set the record straight when his army of men takes the field on Saturday.

England seem a balanced side despite missing some key players in all-rounder Ben Stokes, fast bowler Jofra Archer and bowling all-rounder Sam Curran.

Their batting boosts of some big names such as Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, and Jonny Bairstow — all capable of destroying any bowling attack on their day.

While England lost to India in the first warm-up, they quickly recovered to beat New Zealand in the second match.

Bairstow’s 49 runs off 36 balls and Moeen Ali’s 20-ball 43 late in the order were the highlights of their batting against India, while Buttler slammed 73 off 51 balls against New Zealand to gear up for the showpiece.

Mark Wood and Adil Rashid snapped four and three wickets respectively to lead a clinical bowling display against New Zealand and with David Willey, Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali also in their side, it looks like a formidable attack.

No team has ever been world champions at both limited overs formats simultaneously, but England appear capable of becoming the first, even if a few of their big names have been misfiring in the IPL in recent weeks.

“I know we are missing Ben and Jofra, who are two superstars but I still look down that list and see some real match-winners in our side,” Buttler, who on his day is almost impossible to bowl at, said.

Super 12 schedule

Group 1: England, Australia, South Africa, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh.

Group 2: India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Afghanistan, Namibia, Scotland.

Oct 23: Australia vs South Africa (Abu Dhabi); England vs West Indies (Dubai).

Oct 24: Sri Lanka vs Bangladesh (Sharjah); Pakistan vs India (Dubai).

Oct 25: Afghanistan vs Scotland (Sharjah).

Oct 26: South Africa vs West Indies (Dubai); Pakistan vs New Zealand (Sharjah).

Oct 27: England vs Bangladesh (Abu Dhabi); Scotland vs Namibia (Abu Dhabi).

Oct 28: Australia vs Sri Lanka (Dubai).

Oct 29: West Indies vs Bangladesh (Sharjah); Pakistan vs Afghanistan (Dubai).

Oct 30: South Africa vs Sri Lanka (Sharjah); Australia vs England (Dubai).

Oct 31: Afghanistan vs Namibia (Abu Dhabi); India vs New Zealand (Dubai).

Nov 1: England vs Sri Lanka (Sharjah).

Nov 2: South Africa vs Bangladesh (Abu Dhabi); Pakistan vs Namibia (Abu Dhabi).

Nov 3: New Zealand vs Scotland (Dubai); India vs Afghanistan (Abu Dhabi).

Nov 4: Australia vs Bangladesh (Dubai); West Indies vs Sri Lanka (Abu Dhabi).

Nov 5: New Zealand vs Namibia (Sharjah); India vs Scotland (Dubai).

Nov 6: Australia vs West Indies (Abu Dhabi); England vs South Africa (Sharjah).

Nov 7: New Zealand vs Afghanistan (Abu Dhabi); Pakistan vs Scotland (Sharjah).

Nov 8: India vs Namibia (Dubai).

Nov 10: First Semi-final (Abu Dhabi).

Nov 11: Second Semi-final (Dubai).

Nov 14: Final (Dubai).

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2021

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