By BV Swagath
West Indies held their nerve to clinch a 2-wicket win over Pakistan at The Oval. The World T20 Champions had to battle it out against a strong Pakistani bowling attack which comprised of three left-arm quicks bowling over 140 kmph with disconcerting bounce along with the guile of offie Saeed Ajmal.
Pakistan were always in the contest taking wickets at regular intervals but West Indies did get a couple of key partnerships to get to the target of 171 with as many as 56 balls to spare. For the Pakistanis, Wahab Riaz was simply outstanding bowling at speeds of around 148 kmph! Riaz bowled his heart out but couldn’t bowl Pakistan to victory. For the West Indies - Gayle, Samuels and Pollard scored crucial 30s to put their team secured in the contest.
Giant fast bowler Mohammad Irfan provided the much needed opening for Pakistan claiming the early wickets of Johnson Charles (caught hooking to long leg) and Darren Bravo (fending off a nasty lifter to the keeper) to leave Windies on the backfoot at 15 for 2 in 4.2 overs. Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels steadied the ship after that with a 63-run stand. Gayle (39 from 47 balls with 4 fours and a six) got bowled in the 17th over after missing a slog sweep off a doosra from Saeed Ajmal.
Ramnaresh Sarwan lasted only two balls as he fended off a lifter from Wahab Riaz to the keeper as Pakistan bounced back in style. In the 26th over, Marlon Samuels (30 from 57 balls) ran out of patience as he left the crease but only to be stranded out by a straighter one from Mohammad Hafeez which had him stumped as West Indies slipped further to 94 for 5.
Pakistan and Wahab Riaz were red hot with the chasing team losing half their side but once again West Indies found a steadying partnership. This time it was from Kieron Pollard and Skipper Dwayne Bravo with the duo knocking off 43 runs from the target. Pollard’s patient knock of 30 from 58 balls was ended by a Wahab Riaz short ball which the big hitter poked outside off to get caught behind. Dwayne Bravo (19 from 36 balls) got out in succession after that missing a slog sweep off a tossed up doosra from Ajmal to find himself lbw with his team at 143 for 7 in the 37th over.
West Indies were on the mat and just when Pakistan were looking to deliver the killer blow, Sunil Narine struck a couple of crucial boundaries before he was caught behind playing a rash drive off Irfan. West Indies now needed six more to win with two wickets in hand and the pair of Denesh Ramdin (11*) and Kemar Roach were calm enough to take their side home.
Earlier, Pakistan overcame two mini batting collapses to post a respectable total of 170 thanks to Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq’s stickiness to the wicket. Misbah missed out on a maiden ODI century as he ran out of partners and was left stranded on 96*. Pakistan who were struggling at 15 for 3 because of a tripe blow from Kemar Roach early on, made slow progress to go past the 100 with opener Nasir Jamshed scoring a 93-ball 50. Misbah, who added 90 runs for the 4th wicket with him, was all alone as the next two recognized batsmen perished quickly.
Pakistan lost a wicket in the first over of the match with Imran Farhat caught in the slips playing a loose drive off Roach. The same bowler struck in the 4th over going through the bat pad gap of Mohammad Hafeez. Roach struck for the third time in his spell when he had Asad Shafiq caught at thirdman with an upper cut to reduce Pak to 15 for 3 in 6.1 overs.
A fourth wicket was almost on its way for Roach and the Windies but Ramdin failed to complete a low catch off an inside edge from Misbah. It was a turning point of the Pakistani innings and Misbah went onto repair the early damages along with opener Nasir Jamshed. Pakistan’s second batting collapse began when Jamshed threw it away by holing out a big shot off Sunil Narine to long off soon after getting to a fifty. Shoaib Malik departed for a first ball duck when he didn’t get to the pitch of a Sunil Narine delivery and flicked him in the air to mid wicket. Narine delivered his third blow by having Kamran Akmal under edging a cut off a carrom ball to the keeper to leave Pak on the mat at 110 for 6 in the 32nd over.
West Indies somehow couldn’t deliver the death blow and had to toil hard to take the remaining four wickets. By then, Misbah-ul-Haq with a few calculated big shots, got to 96* from 127 balls with 5 fours and 3 sixes before running out of partners. Roach was the best for the Windies with 10-4-28-3 while Narine finished with 10-1-34-3. Roach for setting up the match in West Indies’ favour got the Man of the Match award.
Toss and Teams: West Indies led by a new Skipper Dwayne Bravo have won the toss and asked Pakistan to bat first in the Group B Match of the ICC Champions Trophy at The Oval in London. Darren Sammy, who recently lost captaincy, fails to even find a place in the XI! Pakistan on the other hand are playing three left-arm quicks.
The Oval pitch looks dry and could take spin as the game progresses but mostly it is expected to be a good batting track. A bit of moisture early on in the track will suit the seamers.
West Indies: Chris Gayle, Johnson Charles, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Dwayne Bravo (C), Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin (WK), Ravi Rampaul, Sunil Narine, Kemar Roach
Pakistan: Imran Farhat, Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez, Asad Shafiq, Misbah-ul-Haq (C), Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal (WK), Saeed Ajmal, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan