Pakistan are set to host the West Indies for a three-match T20I series, a three-match ODI series and a three-match test series in the United Arab Emirates between September 23 and November 3. As part of preparations for the T20I series to be played from September 23, the West Indies will be playing a T20 warm-up match against the Emirates Cricket Board XI on September 20. The visitors are also scheduled to play a two-day warm-up game against the same in between the ODI series that begins on September 30 and a three-day warm-up game against Pakistan Cricket Board Patron's XI from October 7 before the test series begins from October 13. The first test will be played as a day/night match at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Drawing our focus towards the T20I series first, we take a look at the two teams and the players from either side who could make an impact…
Their new captain Sarfraz Ahmed, who led Pakistan to an emphatic T20I victory over England last week, will be in charge of the 15-member squad. Umar Akmal makes a comeback after having last played at the World T20 in March. Seamer Mohammad Irfan and batting all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez are injured while uncapped bowler Amad Butt has been sidelined. Left-arm fast bowler Rumman Raees and allrounder Saad Nasim have also earned a place in the squad.
Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif are Pakistan's key members at the top while Sarfraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik are important middle-order batsmen. Openers Khan and Latif had both struck fifties in Pakistan's previous T20 outing in England against the hosts. Shoaib Malik scored the most runs for his side in the T20I series against England in the UAE last year in November. However, Umar Akmal - the leading run-scorer for Pakistan in T20Is - is likely to be promoted up the order and finish the series as Pakistan's top-scorer.
Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali and Wahab Riaz will be Pakistan's frontline seamers in the series. Of the four, the ones who are more likely to cast a spell of danger on the West Indian batting lineup are Tanvir and Amir. With 47 wickets in 51 matches, Tanvir is topping the charts for the most wickets for Pakistan in T20Is from the current squad. Amir too has impressive figures against his name and he is always going to be a big threat with the new ball. But we feel that the West Indies will be having the most problems against Imad Wasim in these conditions, and therefore, we expect the left-arm spinner to be the top-bowler for Pakistan in this T20 series.
Chris Gayle and former skipper Darren Sammy continue to sit out while Lendl Simmons won't be available because of medical issues. Wicketkeeper-batsman Nicholas Pooran and allrounder Rovman Powell, both of whom are uncapped players, have made their way into the 15-member squad on account of good performances in this year's Caribbean Premier League. Carlos Brathwaite will be leading the team in the T20I series.
Their batting lineup is composed of aggressive and powerful strikers of the cricket ball. Johnson Charles, Evin Lewis, Marlon Samuels and Kieron Pollard will be depended upon the most. Last month in Florida, Lewis tore the Indian bowling apart with a blazing 49-ball 100 in the first T20I while Charles made good scores in both the games of the series. Samuels scored the most runs for West Indies in the World T20 and he is also the second-highest run-scorer for his team in 20-overs cricket. Expect him to be the top batsman for West Indies.
All-rounders Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell will be the main weapons in their seam attack for this series. Bravo has been performing consistently well in this format. When the others were being thrashed around by the Indian batsmen in the first T20I, he kept the pressure on India throughout their innings and bowled a match-winning final over. He also finished among the top 10 bowlers in the World T20 and is currently the leading wicket-taker for West Indies in T20Is. So we expect Dwayne Bravo to be the top bowler for his side. Though Sunil Narine has not been at his threatening best of late, he still will be the most feared bowler when it comes to spin.
Till now, there have been only two T20I series between these two teams and both were played in the West Indies. The hosts had won the one-off match during Pakistan's 2011 tour. The visitors returned in 2013 and won both the games of the 2-match series.
The recent record of West Indies in the shortest version of the game has been very good. Since February 2014, they have not lost a single T20I series out of the seven that they have played, and have handed series defeats to some really strong oppositions such as England, South Africa and India.
Pakistan's recent form in this format has not been that impressive. Although they did register a handsome win in their previous one-off T20I against England, they had lost 1-2 to New Zealand and 0-3 to England in the UAE. They also could not even make it to the finals of the Asia Cup in Bangladesh.
West Indies rank third on the ICC T20I rankings while Pakistan are placed seventh. The latter have won just one series from their last six in the UAE, and that too was achieved against Afghanistan in a one-off series. So far, they have played a 3-match bilateral T20I series in the UAE three times, of which they have lost to England twice (1-2 in 2011/12 and 0-3 in 2015/16). The only victory was secured against Australia by 2-1 in 2012.
West Indies have never played T20 cricket in the United Arab Emirates, and this is where Pakistan will have an edge over the Windies. But the two-time T20 champions seem stronger in this format, and so we predict the visitors to win this T20 series.
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