Fresh guard

West Indies and Pakistan seek to go one-up tomorrow

CASTRIES — West Indies have kept faith with the same 13 players that lost and won the first two One-Day Internationals in Guyana, as they go into the third ODI against Pakistan at the Beausejour Stadium in St. Lucia tomorrow.

There had been much speculation that the selectors would have explored other options in both batting and bowling for the remaining three ODIs after below-par performances at Providence. Barbadian left-hand batsman Jonathan Carter and Jamaican left-arm pacer Sheldon Cotterrell were among the main names that had come to the fore as possible replacements.

However, selectors have chosen to keep with the same eleven that played both matches at Providence along with batsman Devon Smith and fast bowler Tino Best. Despite being the most prolific batsman in domestic cricket in the Caribbean in 2013, Smith is considered fortunate to have been retained as he failed to score in both matches he played in the preceding Tri-Nation series involving Sri Lanka and eventual winners India.

Best is considered less of a gamble, especially given the time of year that these matches are being played when pitches around the region are generally expected to be greener and offering more assistance to the pacers. With a 16-man travelling party, Pakistan have a wider pool from which to draw their final 11 and there is a strong case for Junaid Khan playing at the Beausejour Cricket Ground alongside fellow left-arm seamers Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz.

His inclusion would likely be at the expense of Asad Ali, the right-armer who opened the bowling with the seven-footer Irfan in the opening fixtures at Providence. In the batting department, the tourists remain as vulnerable as ever.

Contrasting half-centuries by Shahid Afridi and skipper Misbah-ul-Haq more than adequately compensated for the failure of the others in the line-up in the opening match last Sunday.

But in the second match two days later, poor shot selection – with Misbah and Afridi the chief culprits – paved the way for the West Indies win despite fifties by opener Nasir Jamshed and wicketkeeper-batsman Umar Akmal. Not that the West Indies are in any way significantly different.

They were routed for just 98 in the first match, their lowest-ever total in an ODI in the Caribbean, and were reliant on the Bravo brothers, Darren and skipper Dwayne, to post what proved to be a match-winning total in the second encounter. It all points to more domination by the bowlers of both sides when the series resumes tomorrow unless someone on either side can rise above the prevailing mediocrity to produce a truly special batting exhibition.

Since his 109 in the opening match of the tri-series, Chris Gayle has mysteriously tapered off, failing to go past 14 in his next five innings. His no-show at the top, coupled with Marlon Samuels’ struggle is partly responsible for West Indies failing to bat with the fluency with which they are associated. A change in Gayle’s fortunes at the top of the order will almost certainly have a ripple effect throughout the batting order.

Sunil Narine returned to his wicket-taking form after recovering somewhat from a finger injury that affected his bowling in the first match in Guyana. The track in St. Lucia is expected to be more suited to the fast bowlers but he is still expected to be a factor.

Johnson Charles has been the form batsman in the side but has been guilty of gifting his hand after good starts. Playing in front his home crowd could prove the spur for him to spend a longer period at the crease. The jury is still out on whether he should be burdened with wicketkeeping duties but the selectors now seem intent on concluding the series with him behind the stumps.

The match starts at 9:30 a.m.

West Indies: (likely) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Johnson Charles (wk), 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Lendl Simmons, 5 Marlon Samuels, 6 Dwayne Bravo (capt), 7 Kieron Pollard, 8 Darren Sammy, 9 Kemar Roach, 10 Sunil Narine, 11 Jason Holder

Pakistan: (probable) 1 Nasir Jamshed, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Mohammad Hafeez, 4 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 5 Asad Shafiq, 6 Umar Akmal (wk), 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Wahab Riaz, 9 Junaid Khan, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Mohammad Irfan

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