First Test preview: West Indies v Pakistan
The onus will be on the home side to make this series more than just a farewell for Pakistan stalwarts Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq but the early indications are that the West Indies will struggle.
The West Indies seem to have been in a perpetual state of rebuilding and have named yet another inexperienced squad as they prepare to tackle a team that has had a few struggles of their own in recent times.
The hosts have opted to give maiden calls to promising young batsmen Vishaul Singh and Shimron Hetmyer rather than recall any of the troublesome old guard in the department that has given the West Indies the most trouble in recent times.
Pakistan’s batsmen have struggled to cope with pace and bounce when asked to play away from the flat tracks of the UAE and will need their veterans, Younis and Misbah, to step up to prevent the middle-order collapses that have plagued them since the end of the series against the West Indies in 2016.
In the bowling stakes Hasan Ali may miss the first Test with injury but Pakistan still have Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz as well as uncapped fast bowler Mohammad Abbas to call on as well as leg spinners Yasir Shah and debutant Shadab Khan who has troubled the West Indies all tour long.
The West Indies have the luxury of a spin-bowling allrounder in Roston Chase who may allow them to play a four pronged pace attack of Jason Holder, Miguel Cummins, Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph but that seems unlikely unless they are greeted by a green top in Jamaica, more likely one of the seamers will be left out to accommodate Devendra Bishoo.
Pakistan’s dramatic slide in Test cricket began when they lost the third and final Test in the UAE late last year and they will target this series as an opportunity to return to winning ways against a side who have shown little sign of improvement in the last few years and seem to consistently be on a road to nowhere.
Kraigg Brathwaite has the best record against Pakistan of the current crop of batsmen and his ability to protect the fragile middle-order from the new ball will be key to the hosts success.
Shannon Gabriel has become a real leader with the ball in hand and invokes the big fast bowlers of Windies folklore when he comes hard at batsmen and he certainly has the skills to trouble a Pakistan batting lineup that is sketchy against seam bowling.
Azhar Ali has been by far Pakistan’s best batsman in the longest format over the last year racking up big scores and occupying the crease with aplomb much like Brathwaite he will be charged with protecting the middle order from the new ball.
If Mohammad Amir can find his best form the Windies batsmen will find themselves with their backs against the wall early on.
West Indies: Jason Holder (capt), Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood, Kraigg Brathwaite, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich (wk), Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kieran Powell, Vishaul Singh.
Pakistan squad: Misbah-ul-Haq (c), Ahmed Shehzad, Azhar Ali, Shan Masood, Babar Azam, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmed (w), Usman Salahuddin, Yasir Shah, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Asghar, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Abbas.
Last five head-to-head results
2016 Third Test: West Indies won by 5 wickets in Sharjah
2016 Second Test: Pakistan won by 133 runs in Abu Dhabi
2016 First Test: Pakistan won by 56 runs in Dubai
2011 Second Test: Pakistan won by 196 runs in Basseterre
2011 First Test: West Indies won by 40 runs in Providence
Morning session: 10:00-12:00 (15:00-17:00 GMT)
Afternoon session: 12:40-14:40 (17:40-19:40)
Evening session: 15:00-17:00 (20:00-22:00)
Umpires: Richard Illingworth, Richard Kettleborough
TV Umpire: Bruce Oxenford
Match Referee: Chris Broad
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