Trench fight: Pakistan, West Indies seek first points
February 21, 2015
Start time 11.00am local (2200 GMT, previous day)
This could have been the battle of the mystery spinners. The ICC's rankings list Saeed Ajmal as the No.1 one-day international bowler in the world, and Sunil Narine as No.2. But last year, the ICC cracked down on suspect bowling actions and neither Ajmal nor Narine is part of this World Cup. Pakistan and West Indies each having been shorn of their most effective bowler, they have also been stripped of confidence in the lead-up to the tournament.
Take a look at the form guide below: there are more Ls than in a Welsh crossword puzzle. Pakistan have lost 11 of their past 13 ODIs and West Indies seven of their past eight. Before the World Cup began, most observers would have nominated either West Indies or Pakistan as the top-eight side most in danger of missing the quarter-finals. One game in, not much has changed: Pakistan were thrashed by India in Adelaide and West Indies lost to an Associate nation, Ireland, in Nelson.
That has left Pakistan on the bottom of the Pool B table and West Indies second from the bottom. It is early, there is plenty of time remaining to ensure progression, but the situation is precarious for both sides. So, Saturday's match in Christchurch takes on extra significance. The losing team will find themselves even further down in the deep, dark trench that is the bottom of Pool B, with fewer and fewer chances to get their heads back above water.
(last five matches, most recent first)
West Indies LLWLL
In the spotlight
Younis Khan's skill and experience is a valuable asset for Pakistan, but it seemed a strange move to shift him against India to open the batting for just the third time in his 262-match ODI career. His 103 against New Zealand in the UAE in December stands as a Burj Khalifa compared to his low-rise one-day scores in the past two years. "Who doesn't go through a lean batting form, but using Younis as an opening batsman is an injustice to such a talented batsman," Javed Miandad said this week. "The top four batting spots are specialists' slots and those who are in form should raise their hands for it. If Younis has to be slotted in the playing XI, then he should come down the order when the ball gets a bit old."
One of the most inexperienced captains in the tournament, Jason Holder has the challenge not only of leading a team full of older men but also ensuring his own form is up to scratch. Since taking over the ODI captaincy, he has taken only eight wickets at 41.37 from six games, while going at 6.49 an over. "It's not a burden on me," Holder said of the leadership. "I'm enjoying it at the moment, just trying to do my best for the team."
Guessing at Pakistan's XI and correct batting order is as hard as solving a Wheel of Fortune puzzle with no letters showing. Younis is suddenly an opener, but will he stay there? Will they stick with Umar Akmal as wicketkeeper or get Sarfraz Ahmed back in? Will they persist with a spin-heavy attack after it failed against India? "You can't say after one game," Misbah said. "We are not panicking. We're just looking into all these matters very closely."
Pakistan (possible) 1 Ahmed Shehzad, 2 Younis Khan, 3 Haris Sohail, 4 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 5 Sohaib Maqsood, 6 Umar Akmal (wk), 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Wahab Riaz, 9 Yasir Shah, 10 Sohail Khan, 11 Mohammad Irfan.
West Indies were without spinner Sulieman Benn in the first game after he succumbed to back soreness, and allrounder Darren Sammy has also been battling a stiff back since the loss to Ireland. However, the captain Jason Holder indicated both men would likely be available. "We've gotten Benn to a stage where we think he's going to be a lot better off than in the first game against Ireland," Holder said. "Tomorrow we should have a full complement to choose from."
West Indies (possible) 1 Dwayne Smith, 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 6 Lendl Simmons, 7 Darren Sammy, 8 Jason Holder (capt), 9 Kemar Roach, 10 Jerome Taylor, 11 Sulieman Benn.
Pitch and conditions
Hagley Oval proved good for batting in the first innings of the tournament opener last Saturday, when New Zealand made 331 against Sri Lanka. The forecast for Christchurch this Saturday is for a fine day and a top of 25C.
Stats and trivia
- Shahid Afridi is 30 runs away from 8000 in ODIs. He would be the 27th man to pass that milestone, and comfortably the slowest in terms of innings taken
- Kemar Roach is two wickets away from 100 in ODIs
- Since the previous World Cup, these teams have met in 11 ODIs for six Pakistan wins, four West Indies victories, and one tie
"If we want to do well in this World Cup this is an important game, and both teams need to win."
Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain
"We can't let our defeats get us down. We lost the game against Ireland and it was a pretty tough loss, but if we get ourselves down it's hard to pick ourselves back up."
Jason Holder , the West Indies captain
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale