KEEPING LORD'S WORLD CLASS
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West Indies will be hoping to upset Pakistan in the first quarter-final fixture of the ICC World Cup in Mirpur.
Pakistan broke Australia’s run of 34 matches unbeaten in World Cup cricket with a four wicket win in their final group match.
Victory would mean either a semi-final rematch with Ricky Ponting’s men or a mouthwatering clash against arch rivals India in Chandigarh.
The West Indies did the minimum needed to qualify - beating the two Associate nations (Ireland and Netherlands) as well as Bangladesh, losing to Test nations England, South Africa and India.
With key men Chris Gayle and Keemar Roach expected to be fit they will fancy their chances in a one-off against the mercurial Pakistanis though.
Despite struggling with an abdominal strain for much of the opening stages Gayle remains the batting mainstay of Darren Sammy’s team.
A tendency to collapse in the lower and late order has hurt the West Indies in this tournament but the likes of Devon Smith have been solid at the top of the order.
In his second match of the competition Gayle cracked 80 against the Netherlands and showed more ominous form in making 43 off just 21 balls against England.
Sammy, a former MCC Young Cricketer, will be hoping for something substantial from former skipper Gayle particularly as Pakistan will have Umar Gul performing tricks with the old ball late in the innings.
With that in mind 36-year-old batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul, left out of the last two group matches, could be recalled to protect a long looking tail.
Seam bowler Roach, one of the quickest bowlers on view in the sub-continent, will almost certainly return to the Windies side. Ravi Rampul, who stood-in for Roach against India may also keep his place after taking 5-51 in that match.
One from: impressive leg-spinner Davendra Bishoo; left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn; and combative all-rounder Andrew Russell are likely to make way for Roach.
Shahid Afridi’s men were remarkably consistent in qualifying on top of Group A, racking up wins over hotly tipped Sri Lanka and holders Australia in the process.
Their bowling options make them a genuine contender for the tournament and most observers feel they will have too much for the West Indies.
Gul is arguably the finest old-ball bowler in the world while leg-spinner Afridi is the top wicket taker in the competition with 17 so far.
A return for Chanderpaul would leave the West Indies with four left-handers in their top five meaning off-spinner Saeed Ajmal could be called upon as an attacking option. Otherwise, the side looks set to be the same as the one which beat Australia, meaning Shoaib Akhtar would miss out again.
Pakistan’s batting can look slightly thin if the experienced pair of Younis Khan and Misbah ul-Haq fail in the middle order and wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal has, once again, struggled with the gloves.
His brother Umar, 20, is a star in the making though and his cool, unbeaten 44 which saw Pakistan home against Australia illustrated his increasing importance to the side.
Key battle - Gayle v Gul
Gul has been promoted to opening the bowling in the absence of Shoaib and his clash with Gayle early in the innings is set to be explosive.
Pakistan’s superb bowling line-up combined with a long West Indies tail points to a victory for Afridi’s men.
As dangerous as the West Indies can prove, their form thus far has not hinted at a side capable of overcoming one of the top teams.
Pakistani cricket never seems far from the next crisis and while most neutrals will be keen to see a Pakistan v India semi-final, the West Indies have the ability to clinch a place in the last four themselves.