West Indies and Pakistan meet in the first Test of three in Kingston, Jamaica from Friday. One team will be looking forward to it more than the other. West Indies will be dreading it as in the last 12 months they have been kicked from pillar to post by their opponents.
The pair have met an extraordinary 16 times in that period across all formats. Pakistan have won 13 of them. But only two were Tests. Still, the bookmakers expect their dominance to continue. After all, the ball is still small, hard and round.
Pakistan are 1.79 (Marathon) with West Indies 7 (Bet365) and the draw is 3.1 (Stan James). The next best about Pakistan is 1.73 with William Hill while Ladbrokes go as short as 1.67.
Pakistan will take some stopping. They have a well-balanced squad with terrific experience. Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq play their swansong before retiring while there are guaranteed runs from the excellent Asad Shafiq and keeper Sarfaraz Ahmed.
With the ball, they can do it all. Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan, and Wahab Riaz have pace and swing while Yasir Shah is still the best spinner in the world.
As usual, West Indies are having to make do with a third-string. All the more surprising then that when experienced pros like Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo are available, they leave them out. Baffling. Jermaine Blackwood and Kraigg Brathwaite are talented individuals but there’s just not enough of them to perform consistently for five days.
Given these two sides have seen so much of each other it is fair to say the formbook is as reliable as it gets. And it reminds us of three decent wagers.
Yasir is, as always, value for top Pakistan wicket-taker in the first innings. He took 11 more wickets than his team-mates in the three matches against the Windies in the UAE. He is 3.75 with green listed bookmaker Stan James.
With the bat, Azhar Ali and Brathwaite are worth following for runscorer honours in the first dig. Both men took a liking to the bowling attacks.
Azhar gets a 4.5 quote from Betfred, Stan James, Ladbrokes, Boylesports, and Coral. He notched 474 runs in the UAE series at 94, almost 200 more than his nearest team-mate.
Braithwaite is the same price with Stan James, Coral, and Ladbrokes and he may need only turn up to get us a winner. He recorded 328 runs in the last series and with Bravo, who was second, not picked he should be comfortable.