With an eye on World Cup, Pakistan seek series sweep against WI

Published June 12, 2022
Pakistan and West Indies' players are seen in action during in the first ODI in Multan on Wednesday. — Picture via PCB/Twitter
Pakistan and West Indies' players are seen in action during in the first ODI in Multan on Wednesday. — Picture via PCB/Twitter

MULTAN: Pakistan began the One-day International series against the West Indies in bullish mood with captain Babar Azam and coach Saqlain Mushtaq eyeing a clean sweep. They’re now just one victory away from doing exactly that.

Having won the first two games in contrasting fashion, Pakistan go into the Sunday’s final ODI buoyed by their performances so far and looking for another win that would push them closer to automatic qualification for next year’s World Cup in India.

With the series counting towards the ICC ODI Super League, a qualification cycle for the World Cup, another victory will see Pakistan move 10 points clear of their opponents in fourth place.

After the first match went to the last over, Pakistan cruised to victory in Friday’s second game thanks to Mohammad Nawaz’s spellbinding spin bowling — the all-rounder picking up a career-best 4-19 as the hosts bundled out the West Indies for 155 after posting 275-8.

“We were confident at the break that we could defend this,” Babar said after the match. “We were under pressure after the first 10 overs [of the West Indies innings] but really happy with the way we fought back. Nawaz took wickets at crucial junctures and brought us back in the game.”

It was a bowling display that drew praise from West Indies skipper Nicholas Pooran too.

“Tough day for us. I thought we bowled well in the first 45 overs but conceded 20 too many. Credit must be given to Nawaz who bowled really well. It was definitely a challenging wicket. There were some soft dismissals, it wasn’t our day,” Pooran said.

Nawaz, who hit the winning runs in the opening ODI, said he was pleased with his performance.

“I was focusing on the basics and the pitch assisted me,” Nawaz said. “The ball was turning, we had an idea in the first innings. I want to do well as an all-rounder and improve day by day.”

Like Nawaz, Pakistan must be largely pleased with the way things have gone so far.

But despite the series victory, there isn’t a chance of the hosts making any wholesale changes for the final ODI.

The option of ousting novice Mohammad Haris, who after making debut in the West Indies series opener batted for the first time on Friday, will be a tough call for Babar to make as it’s still early days for the 21-year-old wicket-keeper/batsman who could not impress with the willow in the second ODI. Therefore, replacing Haris with 31-year-old all-rounder Iftikhar Ahmed for the last ODI will be a difficult decision.

Pakistan’s batting department is primarily relying on captain Babar Azam, who is the highest run-getter in the ongoing ODI series with 180 runs. In-form southpaw opener Imam-ul-Haq (137) has also fared well.

Left-handed opener Fakhar Zaman on the other hand has remained off-colour in the series and for this reason Pakistan may give a chance to top-order Test batter Abdullah Shafique who possesses a fairly nice technique and is yet to play ODIs.

Though today’s inconsequential game may not motivate the West Indies to give their best, still they do have the players who with their bold style of play can cause an upset on a given day. The fighting spirit they demonstrated in the series opener in Multan, before Khushdil Shah’s cameo spoiled their party, is a testimony to this.

Therefore, Pakistan would be duly expected to avoid any form and degree of complacency.

While the 26-year-old Pooran is yet to give his best with the bat, his deputy Shai Hope will need to repeat the century show he produced in the first game if the tourists are to challenge a strong-looking Pakistan side on their home turf.

Plus in-form Shamarh Brooks, Kyle Mayers, Brandon King and Rovman Powell will also have to raise their batting.

As regards bowling, all the West Indies bowlers, except for right-arm pacer Alzarri Joseph, have largely struggled so far in the series.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2022

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