Cricket World Cup 2019: Shadab's battle with Russell in focus as Pakistan prepare for Windies showdown

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Shadab (l) will be key for Pakistan. Image - ShadabKhan/Twitter.

Two of the most unpredictable teams will be on show in the 2019 ICC World Cup when Pakistan and West Indies lock horns at Trent Bridge on Friday.

The second game of the tournament promises to be an exciting battle between the mercurial talents of Pakistan and the power-packed T20 merchants of West Indies.

The match-up between the two teams throws up some intriguing sub-plots and individual battles which could very well have a decisive impact on the final outcome.

Here, we take a look at three key battles that could shape Friday’s clash at Trent Bridge.

CHRIS GAYLE VS HASAN ALI

One of the greatest ODI batsman of the modern era will take guard in his final World Cup campaign when Chris Gayle takes the field against Pakistan. The veteran Windies opener might be approaching 40 but he is showing no signs of slowing down just yet.

Fresh from his exploits in the IPL and the recent ODI series against England where he was in unstoppable form, Gayle is primed to take bowling attacks apart in his final World Cup.

The southpaw is approaching 12,000 runs in ODI cricket and will be desperate to sign off on a high after being elevated to the vice-captaincy. The primary task of stopping him from getting off to a blazing start will fall on the shoulders of Hasan Ali who looks Pakistan’s chief pace threat in the tournament.

The 24-year-old hasn’t been among the wickets of late but he has the ability to crank it up on the big occasion as shown by his 2017 Champions Trophy exploits where he finished as the tournament’s leading wicket-taker with 13 scalps.

Stopping an in-form Gayle will be Hasan Ali's primary remit.

Stopping an in-form Gayle will be Hasan Ali’s primary remit.

BABAR AZAM VS OSHANE THOMAS

Pakistan’s batting hopes will once again rest on the shoulders of Babar Azam who is among the top ODI batsmen based on recent form. The right-hander has been incredibly consistent in 2019 where he averages over 52 with the bat which is approximately the same to his career average in the ODI format.

The 24-year-old has been in stellar form of late with a century and two fifties to show for in Pakistan’s 4-0 ODI series defeat to England. He followed that up with a fine 112 in the warm-up game against Afghanistan and looks to be getting better and better with each passing game.

Babar will surely be the anchor around whom Pakistan will build their innings and stopping him early will be key for the Windies. In their ranks, they have Oshane Thomas whose pace could be a handy asset in English conditions.

The 22-year-old has played only nine ODIs in his career so far but he has already shown that he loves picking up wickets even if he can be a bit expensive at times. He will look to attack Babar early in his innings and will be looking to make use of his lethal bounce. How this duel ends could be extremely crucial.

Windies have a power-packed batting unit.

Windies have a power-packed batting unit.

ANDRE RUSSELL VS SHADAB KHAN

Plenty of bowling attacks in the World Cup will be enduring sleepless nights as they seek to device a strategy to stop an in-form Andre Russell. Many bowling attacks tried to do so in the IPL but it only proved to be futile with ‘Dre Russ’ showing that brute power goes a long way in limited-overs cricket.

After striking a whopping 52 sixes in his 14 IPL 2019 appearances, the confidence will be flowing for the Windies all-rounder’s and he will be looking to make a similar impact at the World Cup.

He has already shown that he is in the mood with a 25-ball 54 against New Zealand in the warm-up but that could just be a taste of even bigger things to come.

If he gets going, it could be all over for Pakistan in a flash and that is why it is pertinent that Shadab Khan imposes his authority over the Windies all-rounder. The Pakistan leg-spin sensation has only just returned from a viral illness and his absence has been felt heavily in the ODI unit.

The 20-year-old has all the variations in the book to trouble the best batsmen in the business and they could prove to be vital against Russell who knows only one way to bat.

Shadab has the game awareness to outfox batsmen when they are looking to attack and how he fares against Russell will have a huge bearing on the game.

Shadab needs to stop a marauding Russell.

Shadab needs to stop a marauding Russell.

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