Two of the most erratic teams in the ICC Cricket World Cup clash today with a favourite unclear and result even harder to predict.
Both the West Indies and Pakistan were beaten in their first matches, by Ireland and India respectively, but based on their form, history and moods within the camp, their earlier defeats meant nothing towards the build-up of this particular match.
The two teams will each put up a challenge and while they are not in a “must win or face elimination” situation, they would know that a defeat here would dent their chances of a place in the quarter-finals.
Pakistan have got the better of the matches in recent history over the West Indies, but these teams are capable of producing stunning performances one day and deeply disappointing the next, so statistics are not much to gone on ahead of the encounter on a lush green Hagley Oval Park.
What is a fact, is that the West Indies were pegged back by the lesser quality of spin in the Ireland game and will face a sterner test against Shahid Afridi and Haris Sohail than they did against Andy McBrine and George Dockerell.
The latter two were thorns in the West Indies’ side at Nelson, with Dockerell taking three wickets and McBrine’s 10-over spell only accounting for 26 runs. This was on a basic, flat track that produced over 600 runs in the day, while here at Hagley Park the pitch looks green and full of turn.
Pakistan have already declared their options are to add another spinner to probably join Afridi, Sohail and Yasir Shah. Their choice could be Sohaib Maqsood, an off-break bowler to come in for Wahab Riaz who looked out of sorts in the India match.
Suliemann Benn who missed the Ireland game due to soreness declared himself fit and will start, but the question is: will the Windies play Nikita Miller as his partner?
A specialist spinner was conspicuously absent in the Ireland match and it left Chris Gayle who has played more Twenty20 cricket in the last year than overs he has bowled in ODIs in the last four years, to spearhead that department. Marlon Samuels was also by his side.
“You have to be smart about you are doing on this pitch,” Benn said yesterday. “You have to use your variations and you will be ok. Everyone has an off day. We (bowlers) did against Ireland so that’s done and dusted.”
The 33-year-old Benn has become the team’s leading spinner in the absence of Sunil Narine.
Benn is likely to come in for Kemar Roach who looked short of work after his long layoff.
The top order has also flattered to deceive and the time is ticking on Gayle’s waning hunger for big scores in the this format.
Who knows, this clash might be the time he gets his groove back.