Among the many quirks of modern-day scheduling, most of West Indies’ Test squad were engaged in a practice match at the ICC academy in Dubai. However, skipper Jason Holder, as well as vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite, found themselves preparing for the final ODI of the 3-match series around 99 miles from there. Even though the series is beyond their reach, the contest has an added element of significance other than the obvious ignominy of a whitewash.
Currently, they are above Pakistan in the ICC ODI rankings. But, another defeat will see them drop down below their opponents while a much-required victory should open up a four-point advantage. With only the top eight teams (as of September 30, 2017) gaining automatic entry to the 2019 World Cup, both sides still have plenty to play for in a bid to continue their journey when the cut-off date arrives.
Following their comprehensive win in the preceding encounter, a relieved Azhar Ali had mused, “It takes time to improve things. You need patience to lift a team. We started the rebuilding process after the 2015 World Cup and it takes one-and-a-half to two years. So, we are going towards that.
“Our nation doesn't have the patience, they want to win instantly. If you don't win, they get frustrated and want change. As a nation, we have to take responsibility. It's easy to look at things in hindsight and call for changes.”
Venue – Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Date – 5th October (Wednesday)
Time – 1500 local/1630 IST (1100 GMT)
Broadcast – Ten 3 (Indian subcontinent)
Online Stream – www.tensports.com
Pakistan – WWWLL
West Indies – LLLWL
The big news coming from the Pakistani camp has been Mohammad Amir who will return home due to his mother’s illness. In his place, they have a like-for-like replacement in Rahat Ali who can swing the new ball or Sohail Khan’s slippery pace could also come into the picture. Considering the importance of this match, coach Mickey Arthur might not want to make any other changes.
One of the major talking points surrounding the previous match was Kieron Pollard’s inexplicable 29-ball 22 amidst a required run-rate of over 10. But, the top-order’s inability to accelerate should be the bigger worry. Despite his affable temperament, Kraigg Brathwaite’s classical batsmanship is sadly almost against the ethos of present-day limited-overs cricket. Evin Lewis might get an opportunity to make his ODI debut.
Azhar Ali (c), Sharjeel Khan, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Mohammad Rizwan, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Nawaz, Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali/Sohail Khan and Hasan Ali
Johnson Charles, Kraigg Brathwaite/Evin Lewis, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Kieron Pollard, Jason Holder (c), Carlos Brathwaite, Sunil Narine, Sulieman Benn and Alzarri Joseph
Abu Dhabi has played quite differently from the other two venues in UAE. With the pitch conducive to spinners, stroke-play might not be as easy. The seam bowlers should not mind the sluggish surface as well since the ball tends to grip and stay low. Expect an assortment of slower deliveries from both sides. However, the onset of dew could make the toss vital.
- Pakistan’s recent record in this venue has been abysmal with only three wins and as many as seven defeats from their previous ten matches.
- On the other hand, West Indies have only played three ODIs here (which came in 2008) and lost all those by narrow margins.
- If Babar Azam scores another century, he will become only the eighth batsman to register three or more ODI centuries on the trot. Among his countrymen, Zaheer Abbas (1982-83) and Saeed Anwar (1993) have managed this feat.