West Indies vs. Pakistan T20 Series Preview
Pakistan won the final encounter of the five-match ODI series in St Lucia on Wednesday to take the series 3-1. The two sides will now play two T20 internationals in Kingstown to conclude the tour.
In all formats, both West Indies and Pakistan are intriguingly volatile and the ODI series was one of the most exciting in recent times. The standard of cricket wasn't notably high, but the entertainment certainly was.
West Indies are the World T20 Champions following their dramatic win against Sri Lanka in the final last October, but 2009 champions Pakistan are a dangerous T20 outfit. This two-match T20 series won't be short on thrills, spills and drama.
Gayle and Samuels Return for the World Champions
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The West Indies have made two changes to the T20 squad that was used for the series against Zimbabwe in March. Both Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels, who were rested for that clash, return to the 13-man squad. Wicket keeper Denesh Ramdin and all-rounder Andre Russell make way.
The absence of Ramdin will mean that Johnson Charles, not a specialist wicket keeper, will take the gloves. Charles briefly deputised for Ramdin during the Champions Trophy when the latter found himself banned for claiming a catch that was deemed to have touched the ground, thus contravening the spirit of the game. Charles was a more than able deputy, and considering Ramdin's poor batting statistics, many were surprised when he returned to the side.
The return of Gayle and Samuels will add more intrigue to this already exciting series. Both men played key roles in the West Indies victorious world T20 campaign.
Pakistan Bowling the Main Threat
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Sohail Tanvir, Zulfiqar Babar and Hammad Azam have joined the Pakistan squad for the T20s. Tanvir is one to keep an eye on; he has been playing T20 cricket for Hampshire in the Friends Life T20 in England and Wales. He may well gain selection on the basis he has been playing competitive T20 cricket of late.
If selected, Tanvir will be part of a potent-looking Pakistani bowling attack, including Shahid Afridi, himself, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan (pictured) and wizard spinner Saeed Ajmal.
Pakistan's bowling has historically been their strength. When matched against the brutal power of the West Indies batting lineup, it is a mouth-watering prospect.
The Beginning of the T20 Carnival
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The Australian T20 Big Bash League has been attracting a lot of press in recent days in the aftermath of Australia's monumental second Ashes Test defeat.
A new domestic T20 tournament, the Caribbean Premier League, will be kicking off later this month. Pakistan's tour of West Indies includes no Tests so to accommodate the new franchise-based contest. The two T20s between these two nations thus kicks off a carnival of T20 cricketing action.
It was announced on Thursday that Pakistan Test and ODI captain Misbah Ul-Haq will be playing in the CPL, according to ESPN Cricinfo.
How Will Pakistan Fare Without Misbah?
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Speaking of Misbah, it will be interesting to see how Pakistan fare without their talismanic skipper. He often comes under a lot of scrutiny and attracts more than his fair share of criticism, as Pakistani captains do. However, he was phenomenal in the recent ODI series, scoring four 50s in five matches.
All-rounder Mohammad Hafeez will take the reins for the T20 series, but will Pakistan's batting hold up without the reliable Misbah?
Pakistan's batting is notoriously volatile. Whilst it can be brutally destructive, it can also self-implode. The calm head of Hafeez in the middle order and growing maturity of Umar Akmal could well be crucial to the visitors.
A Match of Firsts and Rarities
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This is the first ever T20 international in St Vincent and also remarkably only the second time these two sides have ever played each other in an international T20.
These two sides rarely fail to disappoint in terms of providing entertainment. The contest between Pakistan's bowling and West Indies' batting will be very intriguing. In the Champions Trophy, when the two sides met recently, West Indies came out on top in a low-scoring thriller at the Oval. Ajmal versus Gayle was compulsive viewing, and the format being even shorter here should make every ball all the more important.
West Indies haven't lost a match since becoming the world champions, and following a disappointing ODI series, will be desperate to continue that winning streak.