Daijiworld Media Network
London, Jun 7 : Welcome to the coverage of the match between Pakistan and West Indies. These two are perhaps the most exciting and unpredictable sides in the tournament; you never know what's in store when these sides are in action. Pakistan have a strong bowling unit, while West Indies boast of a line up filled with big hitters.
A reminder that West Indies will be led by Dwayne Bravo, and not Darren Sammy. Let's see how the new skipper takes to his new role.
West Indies have won the toss and elected to field
Bravo: 'It's a bit chilly but we're really looking forward to this game. It was good to win against Sri Lanka in the warm ups. They're a very good side and that gives us confidence. We'll try and use the conditions and put their batsmen under pressure with the new ball. Pakistan have a good bowling attack, so we bat deep and we'll hopefully chase down whatever they set us.'
Misbah: 'We have all bases covered in our side. We would have probably bowled first but it's a dry pitch and it's a matter of seeing off the new ball now. Good to see the top order doing well. Playing 2 games in Ireland helped our batsmen negotiate the moving ball. Irfan is back in the side and Junaid Khan is also there. We're playing 3 seamers.'
West Indies (Playing XI): Chris Gayle, Johnson Charles, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Dwayne Bravo(c), Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin(w), Ravi Rampaul, Sunil Narine, Kemar Roach
Pakistan (Playing XI): Imran Farhat, Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez, Asad Shafiq, Misbah-ul-Haq(c), Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal(w), Saeed Ajmal, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan
Both the teams face off in their first game at The Oval after winning one warm-up match each. While Pakistan's first game was washed off due to rain, West Indies lost their match against Australia quite easily before bouncing back to win the second game. However, both teams are evenly matched with an array of talented players. The last time the tournament was played in England, West Indies emerged as the champions in 2004 and they will enter the field with an intent of repeating the same feat. On the other hand, three time semi-finalists (2000, 2004 and 2009) Pakistan are yet to win the trophy and would be keen on creating history.
Team news: Pakistan are a tricky team and after a solid performance against South Africa in the warm-up game, they will be geared up for the real challenge against West Indies. Thanks to their recently-concluded series against Ireland and Scotland, Pakistan have had the chance to get used to the conditions in England beforehand. They definitely come into the tournament with an advantage and plenty of young blood to boost. Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq has the necessary experience to lead the side in a high-profile tournament and his captaincy skills will be put to the test against formidable opposition in the Group.
Undoubtedly one of the best bowlers in limited overs cricket, Saeed Ajmal will be a man to look out for. Pakistan can rely on him to bowl economical overs and pick up important wickets. Pacers Asad Ali and Junaid Khan looked good when they opened the bowling attack against South Africa. Wahab Riaz has also been consistent in his spell and displayed a fine performance scalping three wickets in the game. Mohammad Irfan will be useful in the middle overs and provide much-needed balance to the side.
Pakistan have an established batting unit that does well in chasing scores scripted with the help of a brilliant bowling attack. A special mention here to Mohammad Hafeez who is their star batsman and one of the strongest players on the off-side. Both Hafeez and Imran Farhat hit sublime half centuries against South Africa while chasing a modest total.
Unfortunately, Pakistan will be missing out on the services of Umar Gul because of a knee injury as well as Shahid Afridi, who was dropped from the squad. Only time will tell whether the loss of experience in the form of these two veterans will affect the team's performance.
In form players: Imran Farhat, Nasir Jamshed, and Mohammad Hafeez form a consistent top order and have been responsible for providing them good starts in the last few matches. Hafeez has been equally entertaining as an effective off-spin bowler who can provide crucial breakthroughs. Misabh-ul-Haq has proved to be a confident captain leading the team by example with decent performances in recent times. Junaid Khan has been their most consistent seamer picking up early wickets, although he has been a tad expensive at times. Asad Ali and Wahab Riaz have supported him well. Saeed Ajmal has been terrific with his variations and mystery balls and he would be looking forward to carry on his exceptional form.
Weak links: While their impeccable bowling and strong top batting order are a blessing, their weak and inconsistent middle order have made them lose the plot in crunch games. On paper, they appear a balanced unit with top guns like Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik, but both these experienced batsman have looked unsure in most of the matches. To stand a chance against a talented, varied, and deep West Indian side, Pakistan will be hoping that their middle order fires on what promises to be dry Oval wicket.
Team news: Surprise winners of last years World T20 tournament, West Indies have assembled a young, aggressive, and varied team with a multitude of talent. They have had a long break from one-day cricket with their last ODI match having taken place in February. Considering the lack of practice, their players performed pretty well in the warm-up matches.
Although they lost their opening warm-up game against Australia last week, they came back stronger to beat Sri Lanka by 17 runs in the second match. Both the matches saw some fantastic performances from Johnson Charles and Darren Bravo, who both scored back-to-back half centuries. Their middle order failed in the first match, but made up for it in the second. The return of Chris Gayle to the side certainly spells trouble for the opposition as the majestic opener has been in brilliant form all throughout IPL.
The West Indian team is packed with match-winners with an explosive batting line-up and an equally intimidating bowling unit. Roach, Rampaul, and Best form a decent pace attack and then they have their lethal weapon in form of Sunil Narine. Darren Sammy and Kieron Pollard are capable of bowling tight lines and picking up crucial wickets, too. As a flexible side with a host of attacking players, West Indies stand a good chance of coming out on top in this clash.
In-form players: In every IPL, West Indian players perform like no other and are at the top in all aspects of the game. The recently-concluded league was witness to the tremendous form of players like Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine, and Darren Sammy. Although the one-dayers offer a more challenging format than the twenty over games, the team certainly has the potential to replicate their Twenty20 heroics.
Weak links: On paper, the West Indian bowling attack looks pretty strong, but they have mostly performed in patches. This weakness was laid bare in the game against Australia where they were smashed to all corners of the park by Shane Watson and conceded an easy win. Another thing that troubles them is an unpredictable middle order that has a tendency to get shaky when the top order fails. If they address these two issues, they do stand a chance of making it comfortably to the semi-final stage.
Head to head in CT: 3 played; Pakistan - 1, West Indies - 2
Skipper Misbah praises Saeed Ajmal - Everybody knows that he's one of the best spinners in the world. These kind of bowlers, these kind of players always love these sort of occasions, big events.
We can still take a lot from it (winning the 2004 Champions Trophy), regardless of the fact that nine years is a long time ago - Chris Gayle is confident that West Indies have the ability to succeed in the tournament.