Sri Lanka v West Indies, tri-series, Bulawayo
Despite West Indies’ big win in Harare, on paper, these are two well-matched teams with plenty to play for: the winner will be guaranteed their place in the tri-series final. The relative inexperience in both squads makes it hard to pick an out-and-out favourite, and conditions in Bulawayo should also be a leveller. West Indies’ tied game against Zimbabwe will at least have acclimatised them a little more to the pitch and conditions at Queens, as Sri Lanka’s first match was rained off.
Sri Lanka also have some ground to make up against West Indies after their trouncing in Harare. Their middle order remains unproven, and if this series can be viewed as something of an audition for the upcoming tour of South Africa, there will be several young players hungry to state their case – particularly against the greater firepower of West Indies’ quicks.
Youth and international inexperience are also in no short supply for West Indies at the moment. It is obviously very early days yet, but without a head coach, and with virtually all of West Indies’ established senior batsmen in the wilderness, young captain Jason Holder desperately needs his peers to gel into a new core for the side. Shai Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite’s promising form will give him something to build and bank on, while Carlos Brathwaite’s bowling has been fairly effective in Zimbabwe.
Both for this team and for the immediate future of West Indies cricket, every win is an important one in these circumstances. Though still ninth in the ICC ODI rankings, they are just one point behind Pakistan, and a strong show in their remaining games will put them within touching distance of Bangladesh at No. 7. Between now and September 30, 2017, the cut-off date for direct qualification for the 2019 World Cup, West Indies currently have 11 ODIs scheduled (not including the final of this tri-series), but eight of those matches are against a resurgent England ODI side, and five of those are in England. That’s a tough assignment for what could still be a fairly inexperienced squad, and so West Indies have a lot more than a place in Sunday’s final to play for tomorrow. (ESPN Cricinfo)