Wednesday, March 14, 2007

2007 Cricket World Cup – WI v Pak

West Indies wins on the back of good show by young guns

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In a contest between two of the most mercurial sides in world cricket West Indies came out triumphant over an erratic Pakistan. What would be most heartening about this victory is that its chief architects were from the younger generation of its players. Players like Samuels, Smith and Bravo came to the party in a big way.

Pakistan won the toss in the morning and elected to field first, on a pitch which had something in it for the bowlers. Lara later on said that he would have done the same had he won the toss. The surprise inclusion in the Pakistani team was that of Danish Kaneria who hasn’t been a part of their ODI scheme of things for almost a year now, mainly due to his fielding prowess or lack thereof. This was a big gamble, considering that the West Indies have in the ranks some really good players of spin, not to mention the small grounds over there.

The WIndies innings started off rather shakily with Chris Gayle getting out in the third over for 2. Sarwan walked in and slashed at the first ball he faced; more nerves than anything else. The ball took the outside edge and was flying towards Younis Khan at second slip, who dropped the chance. In fact the Pakistani bowlers did not receive much support from their fielders all throughout the innings. The prime example of it all was when Danish Kaneria fielded an innocuous defensive push from Chanderpaul and then promptly hurled it over the wicket keeper’s head for four overthrows.

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After the fall of Gayle, West Indies adopted a cautious approach for a majority of their innings. It was understandable considering their penchant for collapses. However by the time Lara came in, at the fall of Sarwan’s wicket for a well made 49, the West Indies score was a paltry 3-77 in the 24th over. Lara and Samuels then went about trying to provide some much needed impetuous to the West Indian innings.

The trigger for it was when Samuels hit Iftikar Anjum for a four and a six off consecutive balls and thereby taking 14 runs off the 28th over of the innings. He followed it up by taking another 14 runs in the 31st over bowled by Kaneria which included two fours and a huge six over long on. Kaneria came in for some punishment from Lara too when the great man hit him for a four and a superb flat six over mid off in a single over.

Samuels brought up his 50 off 58 balls when he hit Shoaib Malik for a huge six over the bowlers head in the 41st over. The fourth wicket partnership was worth 91 off 103 balls before Hafeez broke it; Lara had walked after he had edged a sweep to Akmal with the West Indies score at 4-168 in the 42nd over. Samuels too departed soon after adding just 13 runs to the total. And when Ramdin was stumped by Akmal off Kaneria in the very next over we all thought that the West Indies would lose its way once again. The score then was 6-184 off 45 overs. It seemed they would struggle to put a competitive total on the board.

That was when a superlative cameo from Dwayne Smith changed the complexion of the innings. The all rounder made a quick fire 32 off 15 balls which included 3 boundaries and 2 towering sixes. Helped by some lusty hitting from the tail towards the end of the innings, the West Indies took their score to 9-241 in their 50 overs. The momentum was clearly in their favor especially after the last ball six by Collymore off Anjum.

West Indies clearly demonstrated the virtues of the old fashioned approach of keeping the wickets in hand. Pakistan on their part was rather listless on the field while Inzamam’s captaincy was too laid back for his own good. I felt he missed a trick or two when he failed to utilize the full quota of overs from his main bowlers especially Umar Gul. I also felt that he was at a loss of ideas when his bowlers were getting plundered all across the park.

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The way Pakistan’s innings started off was an epitome of their inconsistency. Imran Nazir left alone the first ball. The next one he hit for a six. The next ball he was out caught behind. In walked Younis Khan and he hit a four off the very first ball he faced. It was a surprise when the last two deliveries of the over did not generate any drama at all.

However Younis Khan too did not last long and was out top edging a delivery while trying to hook a ball that got too big on him. The score was 2-17 in 4 overs when he left. And when Mohammed Hafeez left trying to up the tempo in the 11th over, Pakistan was tottering at 3-39. This brought their two most experienced batsmen together in the middle in the form of Inzamam and Yousuf. It was up to them to steady the ship and take the cause forward.

Steady the ship they did; but they ate up a lot of balls in doing so. The pair went about their task in such a snail’s pace that they added only 60 runs in 18.3 over. Their problems were further accentuated by the dismissal of Yousuf by Smith. Pakistan’s total at the time was 4-99 in 29 overs. In the 33rd over Smith also accounted for Inzamam Ul Haq with the score at 5-116. With the asking rate climbing to over 7 runs an over it was up to Akmal and Malik to salvage the situation.

However that was not to be as Akmal was out to a brilliant low catch by Bravo at gully off that man Smith once again, who was rightfully adjudged the man of the match. Whatever hopes Pakistan had of winning the match was virtually over then. Even though Malik put up some token resistance towards the end the task at hand was always too daunting for the Pakistanis. When Bravo finished off the tail he was only putting in the finishing touches to a determined performance by the WIndies.

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Pakistan looked very weak without Razzaq and Afridi. Their presence could have been crucial in this innings as they would given more depth to the batting line up which was sorely missing some firepower in the latter stages of the match, Malik’s exploits not withstanding. Inzamam has a lot of thinking to do if they are to put a good show in this world cup. Remember they haven’t beaten a test playing nation at the world cup since 1999. West Indies would be happy to have got the points under their belt which they are almost certain to carry forward to the Super-Eight stage. They will be a tough side to beat if they can take build on this and get some semblance of consistency into their game.

Related Reads:

Can India bring the world cup home?
The Big Fat Caribbean World Cup
Dropped, Doped or Duped? – The drug scandal in cricket
World Cup Unforgettables – Australia v South Africa, 1999
World Cup Unforgettables – India v Pakistan 1996
The Caribbean Carnival Begins

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