West Indies could have some tough choices to make. They have plenty of depth in their batting, and it’ll be interesting to see if they pick Sammy in the playing XI. They opened with Sarwan in the ODI series against Zimbabwe in February, but Johnson Charles is fresh from two straight half-centuries in the warm-ups. Would they prefer going in with an extra specialist batsman?
West Indies (possible): 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Johnson Charles, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 6 Dwayne Bravo (capt), 7 Kieron Pollard, 8 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 9 Ravi Rampaul, 10 Sunil Narine, 11 Kemar Roach/Tino Best.
Pakistan played just one warm-up game (their first was washed out) and gave Umar Amin a go in the middle order, but it remains to be seen if he’s picked tomorrow.
West Indies have fond memories of playing in the Champions Trophy, famously winning the tournament in 2004 at The Oval, the venue where they will be beginning their campaign on Friday. Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, and Ramnaresh Sarwan played that game almost nine years ago and are part of a side that can go all the way in this competition. West Indies seemed to gel well under the leadership of Darren Sammy, who led them to the World Twenty20 title, but poor returns in the ODI format meant Bravo was appointed his replacement as captain in 50-over cricket. This Champions Trophy will be his first major assignment, starting against opponents who have consistently been strong contenders in ICC tournaments.
Even though Pakistan are missing players who’ve been key members of their side in the past, and just barely managed to beat Ireland ahead of the Champions Trophy warm-ups, they’ve grown accustomed to the conditions and have a strong bowling attack to defend competitive scores. Shahid Afridi and Younis Khan have been dropped; Umar Gul is out due to injury; Mohammad Hafeez has been solid at the top of the order; there’s the experience of Shoaib Malik and Misbah-ul-Haq in the middle, and Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan have been impressive as seamers.
A defeat is a significant setback in a short competition such as this, so expect both sides to be high on intensity, also in part because of the support they are likely to receive at the ground. West Indies, in their pomp, were best supported at The Oval when they played in England, and Pakistan are never short of followers wherever they go.
Pitch and conditions
On a sunny day, The Oval track could cater to a high-scoring game, and take a bit of turn. The conditions may not support much swing. There hasn’t been an ODI played at The Oval in almost 10 months; scores of 238 and 252 were chased down comfortably by West Indies and England there last year.