Watch out in the crowd – Chris Gayle is back in World Cup action!
The West Indies opener – who has blazed more international sixes than any other player – will begin his fifth, and he says final, World Cup against fellow mercurial side Pakistan at Trent Bridge on Friday, live on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event from 10am.
W Indies vs Pakistan
May 31, 2019, 10:00am
Gayle thumped England on home soil earlier this year, averaging 106 from four innings as he racked up 424 runs, with two centuries and two fifties, including 162 from 97 deliveries in Grenada.
“I actually watched him when I was young, when he was playing on TV. He was one of my idols growing up and is still my idol right now,” West Indies batsman Shimron Hetmyer said of Gayle. “I just want to learn as much as possible from him as he comes to the end of his career practically.
“Right now I think he is probably in the best form coming round to the end of his career. It’s sad to see him go, he will be dearly missed, I must say. He is someone you can always lean on in different situations and pick his brain.”
Gayle, 39, is not the only power-hitter in the West Indies line-up, though, as Evin Lewis and Andre Russell also love to launch it – Russell creaming 54 from 25 balls on Tuesday as the Caribbean side amassed 421 against New Zealand in Bristol.
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Pakistan’s World Cup preparations have been far from smooth – they were thrashed 4-0 by England in the recent ODI series and suffered a defeat to Afghanistan and a washout against Bangladesh in their warm-up fixtures.
But there remains this nagging feeling that they will come good in an ICC competition once again, just as they did in England two years ago as they rallied from a comprehensive defeat to India in their opening fixture to win the Champions Trophy, beating Virat Kohli’s men in the final.
Mohammad Amir has been declared fit by Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed after missed majority of the series loss to England through illness, while Shadab Khan is also likely to feature after getting through 10 overs in the warm-up loss to Afghanistan on Friday.
West Indies also have a fully fit 15-man squad to pick from with Hetmyer in line to play in his first World Cup match. Seamer Shannon Gabriel did not figure against New Zealand but is in contention to play.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
West Indies are packed with six-machines but Shai Hope is the glue that holds the line-up together, much in the way Joe Root does for England. Hope’s recent ODI form has been stellar, with four hundreds and three fifties in his last 11 innings helping him to No 4 in the batting rankings. The Barbadian also scored 101 against New Zealand in Tuesday’s warm-up.
All eyes will be on Pakistan seamer Amir and whether he can rediscover his Champions Trophy form, something that has eluded him in the two years since. Shadab missed the ODI series against England through illness but is back now and his spin, fielding and batting ability could prove key for the 1992 champions.
West Indies’ Jason Holder: “Everybody’s playing with a smile on their face and I think that’s how we play our best cricket. When we’re fearless, we enjoy what we’re doing and enjoy each other’s company. I can safely see that we’ve got that atmosphere.”
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