After sharing the honours in the two games played in Guyana, Pakistan and the West Indies move to Saint Lucia for the third One-Day International (ODI) today with both teams looking to take the lead in the five-match series.
The mercurial nature of both sides has been on display in the two matches so far. Pakistan demolished the hosts in a crushing 126-run win in the opening ODI with all-rounder Shahid Afridi marking his comeback to the side in grand fashion.
However, the second game saw the tourists return to mediocrity with West Indies helping themselves to a 37-run win to level the series.
While Pakistan enjoy a good record at the Gros Islet, winning all their previous three encounters, their poor batting form – the team has played out 50 overs just once in their last five ODIs – and the top-order’s continued failure to contribute substantially has been a constant worry and may even be a threat for the team’s unconquered record at the venue.
According to an official close to the team management, Pakistan have planned an extensive practice programme on the eve of the important match.
Changes likely in team
While the team saw its winning combination retained for the second match, a defeat is now likely to see Pakistan experiment with their line-up.
Asad Shafiq, who could score just 10 runs in two innings, is likely to sit on the bench with the team management also unimpressed by the form of opener Ahmed Shahzad and vice-captain Mohammad Hafeez who have scored 24 and 21 runs respectively.
Umar Amin and Haris Sohail are being considered for the match, according to the official.
In the bowling department, wicket-less Wahab Riaz and Asad Ali, who proved to be expensive in the second game, may have to sit out to make way for Junaid Khan and spinner Abdul Rehman.
“Rehman may get a chance as conditions are expected to support the spinners. But this is all under consideration as the final decision will be made after reading the pitch on match day,” said the official.
‘Pakistan must lift up batting’
Former Pakistan fast-bowler Shoaib Akhtar said that batsmen needed to spend more time in the middle and concentrate on converting their starts — traits that the team missed out on in the second game as well as the first.
“Our batsmen will have to perform,” said Akhtar. “They need to build their innings and concentrate on making a big score. The top-order batsmen especially need to be patient.
“They must aim to play out the 50 overs.”
The former pacer also stressed the need to make changes in the team combination.
“You have to make a tough call on Asad [Shafiq] and Hafeez. I feel Rehman should play for Asad [Ali] as they [West Indies] are getting trapped with spin. I think these changes are inevitable.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2013.
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