Pakistan v West Indies 1st Test – Dubai International Stadium at 12:30
Misbah-ul-Haq led his side to the top of the Test match rankings courtesy of a 2-2 draw in England this summer, yet due to India’s fine run of form that has seen them see off both the West Indies and New Zealand, his Pakistan side find themselves the second best ranked Test side in the world once more.
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After a six-nil clean sweep in the limited overs matches, the hosts will be confident of continuing their run of fine form against a beleaguered touring West Indies outfit as the Test match series begins in Dubai on Thursday.
Pakistan are a serious force in their adopted homes of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah in Test matches – it is simply hard to see past anything other than a 3-0 series win here – but hey, this is Test cricket and every now and again surprises do happen.
Perhaps the only thing in the West Indies favour is the fact this is the first day-night Test match to be played in this part of the world. A pink ball, with the final session and a half of each day played under lights, certainly adds a different dimension to what could otherwise be a pretty dull, one-sided affair.
It simply doesn’t rain in the UAE at certain times of the year, this being one such time. Temperatures will be extremely hot and in the region of 35 degrees.
Here’s a list of sides recent 1st innings scores at Dubai Sports City in Test matches, along with the winner/result in bold text. Remember this match is the first to be played under lights with a pink ball –
2015 – 1st inns – 378 (PAK), 2nd inns – 242 (ENG) – PAK
2014 – 1st inns – 403 (NZ), 2nd inns – 393 (PAK) – DRAW
2014 – 1st inns – 454 (PAK), 2nd inns – 303 (AUS) – PAK
2014 – 1st inns – 165 (PAK), 2nd inns – 388 (SL) – SL
2013– 1st inns – 99 (PAK), 2nd inns – 517 (SA) – SA
Batting in the 1st innings of the match in this period – Average 300
Batting in the 2nd innings of the match in this period – Average 368
NOTE – (we’ve ignored 3rd and 4th match innings for the purposes of this column which has been written for each sides 1st innings of the Test)
Form Guide & First Inns Runs
Here are Pakistan‘s last ten 1st innings scores in Tests, plus result in brackets –
542(W) 400(L) 198(L) 339(W) 234(W) 378(W) 523/8d(D) 215(W) 138 (L) 417(W) – Average 337
Here are the West Indies last ten 1st innings scores in Tests, plus result in brackets. We’ve ignored the rained off 62/2* in regards overall average –
62/2*(D) 225(L) 196(D) 243(L) 330(D) 271(L) 223(L) 163(L) 251(L) 220(L) – Average 235
Pakistan will be missing Oval double-centurion Younis Khan for this opening Test as he recovers from a nasty bout of dengue fever. Azam (below) will take his place in what looks a decent batting order. Sami Aslam had a decent time of it opening in England, averaging 55 in the two Tests he played. Azhar Ali will again open after dislodging this disappointing Mohammad Hafeez. Azhar was one of four Pakistani batsman to score hundreds in that England series, the other being the missing Younis, skipper Misbah and classy middle order dasher Asad Shafiq. Wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed nearly always contributes with the bat, his four matches in the UK yielded returns of 193 runs in seven knocks. Leg-spinner Yasir Shah should enjoy a return to the UAE, taking 19 wickets during the England series draw, including 10 wickets in the match at Lord’s. Left-arm quicks Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir will surely start, with the final place looking to be a shoot out between Sohail Khan and Rahat Ali.
Jason Holder’s West Indies only managed to find one batsman to average above 40 in the India Test series defeat and one bowler to average less than 30 with the ball. It is no wonder they simply struggle to compete over the course of five days. Experienced batsman Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo simply must start delivering more – Samuels had a best score of 50 against India in seven knocks whilst Bravo keeps getting in and getting out – 139 series runs is half what he should be contributing. Opener Kraigg Brathwaite is so key in blunting the new ball but a career Test average of 34 will only improve as and when his SR does. Batting at a SR of just 42 runs per 100 balls, he is perhaps more concerned with survival than run-scoring. Wicket-keeper Shane Dowrich had a fine series against India, passing 50 twice in six knocks, on his way to 168 runs. Miguel Cummins bowled quickly and starred with the ball, taking 9 wickets including a best of 6/48 against Virat Kohli’s team. Spin will come from leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo and slow-left armer Jomel Warrican.
Ones To Watch
How could we not include Pakistan‘s new batting sensation Babar Azam in this section? The man who has just scored the most runs anyone has ever accumulated in a three-match ODI series makes his Test debut here, fresh from three consecutive centuries in the 50-over matches. His first class record isn’t as strong as his list A record, so it will be interesting to see how he adapts to the longer format.
Roston Chase was a rare breed of West Indies cricketer to take any plaudits for his performances during the series defeat at home to India recently. His opening four Tests saw the Barbados-born batsman score 190 runs, including a best of 137* to help save the Jamaica Test. Throw in 8 wickets, including a five-wicket haul, and the tourists appear to have found a gem.
If Pakistan bat first, I recommend backing any OVER RUNS around the 350-355 mark.
If West Indies bat first, I recommend backing any UNDER RUNS around the 270-275 mark.
Top First Innings Batsman Market
Sami Aslam looked the real deal in England – he can be backed at 6.0 to top score for Pakistan here.
Jason Holder looks worth a few quid to top score for the West Indies. Given the rabble-like nature of the top order, at 21.0 there’s every chance he could come good – even if he does bat low down the order.
Prices correct at time of writing.