A new-look Pakistan will be keen to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-match Twenty20 International series against West Indies and stay on course for its second consecutive series win in the format against the world champion when the teams meet on Thursday (March 30) at Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain.
Shadab Khan’s dream debut in Barbados got the visitor off to a great start to the tour with a six-wicket win. The 18-year-old leg-spinner took 3 for 7 in his four overs to keep West Indies to 111 for 8, a chase Pakistan completed with just under three overs to spare.
The unfamiliarity factor worked in Shadab’s favour, said Jason Holder, the West Indies Test captain, adding that his side would need to work on its preparation. “We need to just sit down and work out our plans against all their bowlers,” said Holder. “We are coming up against some guys whom we have never played. In this situation, we need to find how best to play them given the conditions that we have.”
West Indies had expected to be more comfortable on the surfaces at home as compared to the slow pitches it was greeted with in the UAE, where it was blanked 3-0. However, it was a relatively slow track prepared for Sunday’s match and the home side had a difficult time against the Pakistani spinners.
“We struggled with their slow bowlers, and it’s a situation where we need to counteract their slow bowlers in the middle,” said Holder. “I felt that the wicket we had was slow, it was a little bit more difficult to hit on. It broke up a little earlier than I thought it would, but bearing that in mind, we just needed to find ways to knock some balls back down the pitch.”
Given the firepower in the line-up, even without some T20 regulars, West Indies will back itself to bounce back. Carlos Brathwaite, the captain, was in ominous touch, hitting two sixes and as many fours in his 27-ball 34 not out while the likes of Kieron Pollard and Marlon Samuels will be looking for a chance to hit out.
Pakistan, riding on a five-match winning streak in the format, has its own areas of concern. The fielding on Sunday was below par; on another day, it could be made to pay for dropped catches. Then, the top order stuttered in a modest chase; at 49 for 3, it was in some trouble until the impressive Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik bailed the team out.
Kamran Akmal didn’t have the best return to the national T20I side after an absence of three years, and will be under pressure to come up with a good performance, as will Ahmed Shehzad, who too is on a comeback trail. After Shadab’s success, Pakistan might be tempted to hand a debut to another Pakistan Super League star in Fakhar Zaman, the left-hand batsman, in its effort to keep up the winning run.
The third and fourth matches of the series will be played at the same venue on April 1 and 2.
West Indies: Carlos Brathwaite (capt), Samuel Badree, Jonathan Carter, Andre Fletcher, Jason Holder, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Sunil Narine, Veerasammy Permaul, Kieron Pollard, Rovman Powell, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Jerome Taylor, Chadwick Walton (wk), Keswick Williams.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt, wk), Ahmed Shehzad, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Fakhar Zaman, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanvir, Rumman Raees, Hasan Ali, Usman Khan.