GUYANA: West Indies on Friday has won the toss and elected to field first against Pakistan in the first One Day International (ODI) match being played here at Providence Stadium.
It is often alleged that the existential threat 50-over cricket faces arises largely due to the number of ODIs played without context or substantial meaning. Series such as this one, featuring three ODIs tucked between four T20s and three Tests, would generally have been the perfect example to advance that point. But the ICC’s otherwise severely criticised move to reduce the World Cup to ten teams, only eight of which qualify directly, means Pakistan and West Indies – ranked eighth and ninth in ODIs respectively – will be playing for much more than the series trophy when they take on each other in Guyana. If West Indies win all three ODIs, they will leapfrog their visitors to eighth position less than six months before the cut-off date of September 30.
Pakistan will be buoyed by a 3-1 win in the T20I series, although it did little to allay concerns that Sarfraz Ahmed’s men are still too inconsistent to compete with the very best. The series was bookended by clinical wins, but the two games in between witnessed a convincing win for West Indies and one game their coach Stuart Law said they threw away. With West Indies now significantly depleted by the departure of many of their high-profile names to the IPL – Kieron Pollard, Carlos Brathwaite, Samuel Badree and Sunil Narine have all flown off to India – a mere series win, much less a whitewash, would be a welcome result.
In the short history of the Providence Stadium in Guyana (it was constructed ahead of the 2007 World Cup), it has developed a reputation as a venue where the ball keeps low and doesn’t come on to the bat. As such, the execution of each side’s spin-bowling plans may be decisive in the outcome of this match – and indeed the series.
Rain is expected in the early part of the day, but the sky should clear up by the evening.