West Indies play Pakistan get their Cricket World Cups underway at Trent Bridge on Friday. James Buttler thinks the Caribbean side are an outside play to lift the trophy...
"Whilst everyone chats about the chances of England breaking the 500-total barrier for the first time, don't think West Indies can't get there first."
West Indies v Pakistan
Friday May 29, 10:30
Live on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event
Holder's side are dangerous
It's a long time since West Indies were front and centre of international cricket. The champions of 1975 and 1979 have endured a period in the wilderness but captain Jason Holder has led West Indies brilliantly of late and taken a disparate, inexperienced outfit and forged them into a side that appears to know where it's going. That could be all the way to the final on 14 July if the stars align. The men from the Caribbean could light up this event but beware their Jekyll and Hyde nature. One day they could be crashing the ball everywhere, the next rolled cheaply.
Any side with Chris Gayle, arguably the greatest one-day batsman of all time, and Shai Hope, the classy youngster, has a chance. With Andre Russell raising the bar for power hitting there will be a side or two who feel the force over the next few weeks.
Critics would suggest their bowling is weak, but this World Cup will be won by the batsmen. And looking at a squad that boasts Russell, Kemar Roach, Carlos Brathwaite, Holder and young speedster Oshane Thomas, you'd have to say they can hold their own.
Pakistan bowling too weak to trust
Fans of Pakistan will hark back to their 2017 Champions Trophy success in England but this side had a different feel. They come into the event having lost 10 One-Day Internationals on the bounce. They were beaten by England in the recent series and lost to Afghanistan in their warm-up match. Their English acclimatisation period doesn't appear to have worked any wonders.
Two years ago it was a seam attack that did the damage, but 19-year-old Shaheen Afridi and veteran Wahab Riaz are unlikely to have the make the same impact. Shaheen will be a top player but this is a World Cup to early for him. Mohammad Amir was the star of their 2017 trophy success but he's been well off top form for over a year.
Their top order are dangerous. Fakhar Zaman has a terrific ODI record and blazes away as a powerful opener, Imam ul-Haq is more classy and Babar Azam oozes star quality. With the experience of Sarfraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik in the middle-order they are capable of posting some big scores. If skipper Sarfraz has any chance of emulating the great Imran Khan and his 1992 World Cup winning side however, he will need more than his bowlers are capable of giving him.
West Indies the value punt
The West Indies stacked up 421 against a New Zealand side in their last warm-up game. Many think the Kiwis have the best bowling attack in the competition, so if Holder's side can hit them around the park they should really enjoy themselves against Pakistan.
There seems no logical reason why West indies are marginal outsiders for this match and a 2.001/1 price tag is well worth a look. Pakistan have forgotten how to win and I wouldn't touch their 1.981/1 with my worst enemies money.
The West Indies top order is stacked with talent. Chris Gayle embarks on his last major international tournament with an inner desire to go out with all guns firing. Shimron Hetmyer, Andre Russell and Carlos Brathwaite add the pyrotechnics, Darren Bravo the class and Evin Lewis and Nicholas Pooran the quality. Most have grown by playing franchise cricket and their country, finally, is better for it.
Whilst everyone chats about the chances of England breaking the 500-total barrier for the first time, don't think West Indies can't get there first.
The man I think could have a superb World Cup is Shai Hope. The 25-year-old right-hander is 16/5 to top score for his side. He averages 51.06 in ODIs and scored 101 in the warm-up win over New Zealand. You could do worse than take him to score the most tournaemnt runs too at 25/1.
The value in the top scoring Pakistan player markets is with Fakhar Zaman at 7/2. The 29-year-old averages 51.31 in 36 ODIs and anyone that saw his century against England in Southampton knows what a dangerous striker of the ball he can be. I can see why Babar Azam and Imam ul-Haq are competitively priced, especially after Babar scored 115 against England at Trent Bridge only a couple of weeks ago. But Fakhar Zaman should not be third favourite in this market.
This World Cup is going to break run-scoring records and there will be more sixes struck than ever before. Looking down the West Indies batting including Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Andrew Russell and Carlos Brathwaite it begs the question, who'd be a bowler? Trent Bridge is a ground that has become synonymous with big scores in recent years - it's where England broke the world record - so take cover!
Russell batted like a superhero in the recent Indian Premier League. He hit the ball consistently harder than I have ever seen and could do some serious damage. West Indies are 1/2 to hit the most sixes in this match. It is short, but it lands.
This tournament has the world's best players and match-winners as far as Russell can hit a ball over cover. The Man of the Match markets offer some great prices. Take two or three star names and sit back and enjoy the game. For me, in a match where I see a West Indies win, Andre Russell, Chris Gayle and Shai Hope, all at 9/1, are the headline grabbers so a half-stakes tickle on all three could bear dividends.