Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed said left-arm pacer Mohammad Amir is fit and available for selection for the team’s opening World Cup clash against the West Indies on Friday.
The 27-year-old has just recovered from chicken pox and given his abysmal record in ODIs in the past year, there is speculation Amir isn’t first-choice selection anymore.
“Amir is fully fit and available for selection for tomorrow’s game,” Sarfaraz said on Thursday.
Amir bowled off his full run-up during the practice session. However, his availability is not the only issue for Pakistan, who have lost their last 10 ODIs.
“Yes, we have lost 10 matches but we have to forget that and start the World Cup journey,” the skipper said.
Sarfaraz said both Pakistan and the West Indies are unpredictable so neither team will have a distinct advantage.
“It’s good to be unpredictable so all teams are scared of you. Yes, we are unpredictable and we will take that tag, so are the West Indies,” said the skipper.
Windies have a strong batting line-up including Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Shai Hope and Andre Russell. Sarfaraz said taking wickets will be key.
“If you want to contain any team you have to take wickets whoever you play, so it’s important to put pressure by taking wickets.”
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.
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.
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.
Eoin Morgan and his No1 ranked England are being considered as huge favourites for the tournament and are being backed to finally end their World Cup drought.
South Africa, on the other hand, are in good form as well and should pose a tough examination of England’s title credentials in the opener.
Will England make a blazing start in the tournament or will the Proteas bring the hosts crashing down in their very first game? Find out by following our ball-by-ball live updates from the Oval below.