Despite returning to cricket fairly early in September last year for a T20I tour to England, West Indies haven’t played ODI cricket since November 2019 while the visitors returned to the format early this year when they toured South Africa. Now with only eight months to go for the global event, both sides will be looking to iron out their flows and make a dash to qualify for the competition when they feature in World Cup Qualifier in Sri Lanka in December.
Before the start of the tour, it was expected that Pakistan will be the better-prepared side having toured South Africa and played a few matches. But with the hosts whitewashing them in the T20I series, it’s fair to say that both sides start on an even keel when they take on each other on Wednesday. Neither of the sides had a great time in the 50-over format in recent years having won only one match (Pakistan also tied one match) in their last ten encounters respectively. Pakistan’s last ODI series win came against the West Indies when they hosted them in Dubai in 2019. West Indies last won a series when they defeated Sri Lanka at home in 2017.
One of the biggest issues for Pakistan during their South Africa tour was the repeated failures of the top order and that played a large part in them losing the series 3-0 to the hosts despite the spirited display from the lower order. The absence of regular skipper Bismah Maroof, who is on her maternal break, will continue to affect the visitors in this series as other batters continue to struggle. On the positive side of things, they had middle order batters Aliya Riaz and Nida Dar showing signs of consistency in South Africa, and the bowlers led by Daina Baig have fared reasonably well. Pakistan have some exciting bowling talent in the extended squad with the likes of Fatima Sana and Syeda Aroob Shah impressing in the chances they got.
Javeria Khan had a terrible T20I series having scored only 13 runs at an average of 4.33 from three matches. The tourists will be hoping for more runs from their captain and lead the side out of their batting troubles. Young Ayesha Naseem continued to show glimpses of her talent when she scored an unbeaten 45 in the first T20I after having impressed everyone during the South Africa tour, she is yet uncapped in the 50-over format and it remains to be seen if Pakistan are going to give her a debut in any of the five matches. Even if Naseem makes her debut, she is likely to bat down the order and they will have to find an answer in someone else for the top order issues having tried the likes of Nahida Khan, Omaima Sohail, Muneeba Ali, and Javeria Rauf in those positions.
If the visitors are trying to find answers for Maroof’s absence, West Indies have been trying to find solutions to all their worries in their skipper Stafanie Taylor. Since the World Cup in 2017, their batting has been heavily dependent on the charismatic allrounder with Taylor scoring 843 runs at an average of 49.58 in 19 innings with nine fifties to her name. Hayley Matthews – the second highest-run getter during the period – has scored only 318 runs at an average of 28.90 and injury-ridden Deandra Dottin has scored 311 runs at an average of 31.10. Apart from these three, others fared worse and don’t have any kind of numbers to speak of. The hosts will be hoping for the triumvirate to lead them with both bat and ball.
On the bowling front, Anisa Mohammed has a terrific record against Pakistan in ODIs having taken 36 wickets from 16 matches at a frugal average of 9.08 including a career-best of seven for 14 in 2011. Four of Mohammed’s five-wicket hauls in the format have come against the visitors in the same year. West Indies will miss the service of Afy Fletcher for she has been the highest wicket-taker for them in ODIs since the 2017 World Cup. They will need their pace bowlers Shamilia Connell and Shakera Selman to step up and attack the under-fire Pakistan top order.
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It’s difficult to predict the playing XI for the visitors with them carrying a large extended squad for the tour. With the surface in Antigua being slower and lower in recent times, Pakistan are likely to have more spin options in their line up while West Indies have rested Chinelle Henry from the first two ODIs and Caneisha Isaac will replace her in the 13-member squad.
With no clear favourites, which team will start off their journey towards the World Cup on a positive note come Wednesday?
West Indies: Stafanie Taylor (c), Anisa Mohammed (vc), Aaliyah Alleyne, Shamilia Connell, Britney Cooper, Deandra Dottin, Caneisha Isaac, Kycia Knight, Kyshona Knight, Hayley Matthews, Chedean Nation, Karishma Ramharack, Shakera Selman
Pakistan: Javeria Khan (c), Rameen Shamim, Sidra Nawaz (wk), Aliya Riaz, Aiman Anwar, Anam Amin, Ayesha Naseem, Ayesha Zafar, Diana Baig, Fatima Sana, Iram Javed, Jaweria Rauf, Kainat Imtiaz, Kaynat Hafeez, Maham Tariq, Muneeba Ali Siddiqui (wk), Nahida Khan, Najiha Alvi (wk), Nashra Sandhu, Natalia Parvaiz, Nida Dar, Omaima Sohail, Saba Nazir, Sadia Iqbal, Sidra Amin, and Syeda Aroob Shah