The first two matches of the series between West Indies and Pakistan at Guyana were decided on the basis of some very good bowling even as the batting from both sides were below expectations. To be fair to the batsmen, the conditions haven’t been very easy for them to play their strokes. They would be hoping that the conditions are much better at St. Lucia. At the same time, the batsmen must make an effort to apply themselves better irrespective of the conditions. West Indies would go into the third match high on confidence considering their victory a few days back, but they wouldn’t be favourites since they are as unpredictable as Pakistan.
Looking at West Indies’ batting first, Chris Gayle’s lack of runs is the biggest worry for them. The left-hander kicked off the home run with a century in the tri-series opener, but since he has failed to make any score of note. In the two matches so far he has made scores of 1 and 1 each. Gayle must try and occupy the crease for a longer period. He doesn’t need to worry about the strike rate. We all know that once he gets his eye in, Gayle can turn things round. Of course, he must show the patience to deal with the conditions for the same.
Another senior pro in the side is also struggling. Marlon Samuels has made 20s in both the matches, but has not looked comfortable at all out in the middle. Samuels spent nearly 100 minutes at the crease in the first game and over an hour in the second but failed to carry on and make a substantial score after doing the hard slog. Being such an important member of the West Indian batting outfit, it is imperative for Samuels to get back to form as soon as possible. The worrying aspect is that Samuels’ poor form began much before the current series.
Among the other batsmen, opener Johnson Charles and Lendl Simmons will also need to raise their respective games. Dwayne Bravo did come up with a half-century in the previous match, but he needs to start getting bigger scores. West Indies would have been pleased that their skipper Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard got among the runs in the last game. But, what West Indies need from them is consistency, which hasn’t been their forte.
Shifting focus to Pakistan, they need bigger efforts from everyone in the top and middle order. Misbah-Ul-Haq and Shahid Afridi got half centuries in the first match, but all the others failed to come up with big scores as a result of which West Indies could restrict Pakistan. It was only Afridi’s brilliance with the ball that got them home. The case was the same in the second match when Nasir Jamshed and Umar Akmal got fifties but all the others struggled. Batsmen from both sides know what is expected of them. The question is, who will deliver?
--By A Cricket Analyst