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The Preview by Siddhartha Talya
June 6, 2013
Match factsFriday, June 7, The Oval
West Indies have fond memories of playing in the Champions Trophy, famously winning the tournament in 2004 at The Oval, the venue where they will be beginning their campaign on Friday. Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, and Ramnaresh Sarwan played that game almost nine years ago and are part of a side that can go all the way in this competition. West Indies seemed to gel well under the leadership of Darren Sammy, who led them to the World Twenty20 title, but poor returns in the ODI format meant Bravo was appointed his replacement as captain in 50-over cricket. This Champions Trophy will be his first major assignment, starting against opponents who have consistently been strong contenders in ICC tournaments.
Even though Pakistan are missing players who've been key members of their side in the past, and just barely managed to beat Ireland ahead of the Champions Trophy warm-ups, they've grown accustomed to the conditions and have a strong bowling attack to defend competitive scores. Shahid Afridi and Younis Khan have been dropped; Umar Gul is out due to injury; Mohammad Hafeez has been solid at the top of the order; there's the experience of Shoaib Malik and Misbah-ul-Haq in the middle, and Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan have been impressive as seamers.
A defeat is a significant setback in a short competition such as this, so expect both sides to be high on intensity, also in part because of the support they are likely to receive at the ground. West Indies, in their pomp, were best supported at The Oval when they played in England, and Pakistan are never short of followers wherever they go.
Form Guide(most recent first)
Pakistan: WTWLW (last five completed games)
West Indies: WWWLL
Watch out for...Ramnaresh Sarwan was once the most important member of West Indies' top and middle orders, but didn't play ODIs for almost a year-and-a-half until his return against Australia in February this year. Though that series was a disappointment, he struck a century in the three-match series against Zimbabwe, followed by a stint with Leicestershire, which would have helped him get used to the conditions.
Wahab Riaz could be a handful in favourable conditions in England. He bowls with pace, can swing it and can be effective in the shorter format with his ability to bowl the yorker on target. He is more than handy with the bat, having played a key role in Pakistan's close victory over Ireland followed by a three-for in the warm-up win over South Africa.
West Indies could have some tough choices to make. They have plenty of depth in their batting, and it'll be interesting to see if they pick Sammy in the playing XI. They opened with Sarwan in the ODI series against Zimbabwe in February, but Johnson Charles is fresh from two straight half-centuries in the warm-ups. Would they prefer going in with an extra specialist batsman?
West Indies (possible): 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Johnson Charles, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 6 Dwayne Bravo (capt), 7 Kieron Pollard, 8 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 9 Ravi Rampaul, 10 Sunil Narine, 11 Kemar Roach/Tino Best.
Pakistan played just one warm-up game (their first was washed out) and gave Umar Amin a go in the middle order, but it remains to be seen if he's picked tomorrow.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Imran Farhat, 2 Nasir Jamshed, 3 Mohammad Hafeez, 4 Asad Shafiq, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Shoaib Malik, 7 Kamran Akmal (wk), 8 Saeed Ajmal, 9 Wahab Riaz, 10 Junaid Khan, 11 Asad Ali/Ehsan Adil.
Pitch and conditions
On a sunny day, The Oval track could cater to a high-scoring game, and take a bit of turn. The conditions may not support much swing. There hasn't been an ODI played at The Oval in almost 10 months; scores of 238 and 252 were chased down comfortably by West Indies and England there last year.
Quotes"The plan should be that Imran Farhat plays as an anchor and last for 40 overs or so and the boys around him play freely but sensibly. Pakistani batting always comes under pressure if the openers fall early."
Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Siddhartha Talya
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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