The Test series between Pakistan and West Indies will be a final hurrah for two of Pakistan’s greatest servants – Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan. While Younis is on the verge of becoming the first Pakistan batsman to reach 10,000 runs, Misbah on the other hand will look to end his career on a high by winning this series comprehensively, after two poor series against Australia and New Zealand. West Indies had won the last Test these two teams played, which was in Sharjah in November last year. They have included Shimron Hetmyer and Vishaul Singh, which further bolsters their squad. Along with Shadab Khan, Pakistan have also handed out Test call-ups to Usman Salahuddin, Mohammad Ashghar and Mohammad Abbas. Let us now take a look at the likely XIs both times might play in the first Test at Sabina Park. Full Cricket Scorecard: Pakistan vs West Indies 1st Test at Sabina Park
Top-order: Ahmed Shehzad and Shan Masood are the two obvious choices for opening slot, but Azhar Ali, with an average of close to 69, is more or less certain to open the innings. He will be partnered by either Masood or Shehzad, who struck a couple of fifties in the recently concluded One-Day International (ODI) series against West Indies. Masood has just one fifty since that match-winning innings of 125 against Sri Lanka at Pallekele in July 2015. Shehzad, who is now accustomed to the conditions in the Caribbean, is most likely to get the nod. At No. 3, Pakistan have Babar Azam, who has played a couple of promising innings in his short Test career, but has not scored anything substantial. Having dominated West Indies in the limited-overs, Azam might carry his confidence into the longest format as well.
West Indies too on the other hand have a few players to pick from for their opening slot. Kraigg Brathwaite is surely the first choice opener. But there will be a toss-up between Kieran Powell and Kyle Hope. Powell scored a fifty in the warm-up match and with an experience of 21 Tests under his belt, he is most likely to open with Brathwaite. Powell slammed a couple of fifties in the tour game and is in good form ahead of the first Test. READ: Pakistan vs West Indies Test series: A no-contest in favour of visitors
West Indies selectors made a big call when they axed Darren Bravo and Marlon Samuels from the squad. But that will pave way for Shimron Heymyer in the XI. He scored a 97 and a quick-fire 22 in the warm up matches before he was undone by Yasir Shah on both occasions. He will be an excellent candidate for the No. 3 position.
Middle-order: Pakistan have a formidable middle-order, which comprises of heavyweights such as Misbah and Younis, followed by solid batsmen Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed. If the top-order fails, the middle-order is more than capable of resurrecting the innings. If one or maybe a couple of them get a big score on the board, Pakistan will surely get a huge score.
West Indies will have a relatively weak middle-order compared to Pakistan but they are not short of talent. In the absence of Marlon Samuels, Jermaine Blackwood will be entrusted to bat at No. 4, followed by Vishaul Singh, who like Hetmyer, will make his Test debut. Vishaul struck a superb 135 in the warm-up match and deserves his place in the line-up. Blackwood has shown his potential in the past, but has failed to score big runs for the West Indies. With a little more responsibility on his shoulder, he might step up and deliver in this series. All-rounder Roston Chase has had a promising beginning to his Test career. His batting coupled with his controlled off-spinners will surely come in handy. It was at Sabina Park when Chase announced himself with an unbeaten 137 and a five-for. He has a chance to replicate his performance at the same venue. READ: Arthur asks PAK selectors to include Rahat in Test squad vs WI
Shane Dowrich will be entrusted to keep wickets. West Indies have Kyle Hope as a reserve wicketkeeper. The West Indies selectors took a big gamble deciding to pick Dowrich in place of the experienced Denesh Ramdin for the India tour. He has improved with each passing innings as a wicketkeeper and as a batsman, which bodes well for the future of West Indies cricket.
Bowlers: Mohammad Aamer and Yasir Shah are perhaps the only two certainties. With Hasan Ali doubtful due to an injury, it could be Wahab Riaz sharing the new ball with Aamer. Also, Pakistan will have to take a call whether they want to play two spinners and two pace bowlers or three pacers and one spinner. If they go in with three fast bowlers, we might see the fast bowler Mohammad Abbas making his Test debut. If Pakistan go in with two sinners, Mohammad Asghar, who was the back-up for Yasir Shah for the Australia tour might make his debut. Pakistan also have Shadab Khan as another spin option.
For West Indies, it will be Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph leading the bowling attack with skipper Jason Holder coming as first change. Devendra Bishoo has been in excellent form in the longest format and he will be West Indies’ frontline spin option along with all-rounder Chase.
West Indies likely XI: Jason Holder (c), Kraigg Brathwaite, Kieran Powell, Shane Dowrich (wk), Jermaine Blackwood, Roston Chase, Devendra Bishoo, Shimron Hetmyer, Shannon Gabriel, Vishaul Singh, Alzarri Joseph
Pakistan likely XI: Misbah-ul-Haq (c), Ahmed Shehzad, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Yasir Shah, Mohammad Asghar/Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Aamer, Hasan/Wahab