West Indies and Pakistan will open their 2019 World Cup accounts when they face each other in Nottingham on Friday. Neither side are favorites to win the tournament but both are realistic semi-final contenders. This match could be crucial in determining who will finish in the top 4 at the end of the group stage.
On their day, West Indies can beat any team in the world. The two-time World Cup winners have an abundance of attacking batsmen in their squad who are capable of singlehandedly taking the game away from their opposition. If the likes of Chris Gayle and Andre Russell get going, Pakistan’s bowlers will struggle to stop them.
On the other hand, Pakistan are enduring a wretched run up to the tournament. A 4-0 series loss to host nation England means they have now lost their last eleven completed ODI matches. Disregarding recent form, Pakistan generally rise to the occasion of tournament cricket and the 1992 World Cup winners will go into their opening match at Trent Bridge as slight favorites.
If Pakistan are to win on Friday, they will need batsman Babar Azam to come to the party. The 24-year-old is ranked 7thin the ODI batting rankings and is their main man when it comes to scoring runs. Paceman Hasan Ali is their biggest threat with the ball and will be keen to start the tournament on a high by claiming wickets against West Indies.
West Indies will take great encouragement from their impressive 2-2 series draw with England earlier in the year, especially after Pakistan’s recent failures against them. In that series, 39-year-old Chris Gayle set a new record for most sixes by a batsman in an ODI series with 39 maximums. He also notched up a sensational 424 runs at a strike rate of 134.
Gayle will want to go out with a bang after announcing that he will retire from ODI cricket after the tournament. The iconic batsman will bow out as one of the best white ball cricketers the world has ever seen. He hit the most sixes at the 2015 World Cup and you would expect him to start his 2019 campaign with a few more against Pakistan.
Trent Bridge was the venue for the highest one-day total in history when England crushed Australia last year. England scored an incredible 481 runs with two players scoring 100s. This suggests that West Indies and Pakistan could produce the first of many big scores being posted at this ground in the coming weeks.
With that being said, I am inclined to go against the bookies and predict that West Indies will clinch the victory. Their fire power at the top of the order should prove too hot to handle for the Pakistan bowlers. Taking into consideration the recent form of both sides, West Indies will be coming into the tournament with a lot more confidence than Pakistan.