Pakistan marched into the semi-finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup with a surprisingly easy and commanding win over a poor West Indies. With this punishing win, Pakistan has made a strong statement to other teams that they better beware of this side with immense potential. The quarter final encounter turned out to be a poor mismatch.
West Indies skipper Darren Sammy won the toss and decided to bat first at Mirpur. Surprisingly, they left out Andre Russell and brought in Shivnarine Chanderpaul thus affecting the balance of the team. It was another matter that without Chanderpaul, West Indies would not have crossed 100 runs. Kemar Roach and Chris Gayle returned as well. Pakistan brought in off spinner Saeed Ajmal and dropped Abdur Rehman, a decision prompted by the left-handers in the West Indies side.
The start belied what was to follow. Off the first 16 balls, 14 runs were scored and then Pakistan took control of the proceedings. Umar Gul had Gayle play his trademark lofted shot but could only hit the ball straight to the fielder at mid on. Mohammad Hafeez, with the new ball, then struck twice in the 6th over. He had Devon Smith and Darren Bravo trapped in front of the wicket as they failed to play inside the line of the ball. 14/0 had become 16/3 in the space of the next 18 balls.
Ramnaresh Sarwan and Chanderpaul tried rebuilding the innings, but the runs were hard to come as Hafeez choked one end with his spinners. The batsmen played as though this was Test match cricket and there was no concerted effort to increase the run rate. In the 25th over, Afridi got a ball to bounce more than Sarwan expected and he ended up slashing it to Umar Akmal at point. Two overs later, he had Kieron Pollard edge to Kamran Akmal and off the very next ball had Devon Thomas trapped in front. Afridi did not get a hat-trick though as a leading edge of Sammy went to no man’s land.
Saeed Ajmal too got into the act as he had Sammy trapped in front with the wrong ‘un and in the same over had Devendra Bishoo bowled with another wrong ‘un. 71/8 in the 28th over and the match was headed for an early finish. Kemar Roach provided admirable support to Chanderpaul for the next few overs as West Indies reached 100 in the 37th over of the innings. Roach was dismissed in the 43rd over as he went for a big shot but could not get past Younis Khan at midwicket. It was all over in the next over as Ravi Rampaul missed a sweep off Afridi and was castled. 112 all out in 43.3 overs in an important quarter final was grossly inadequate by any standards.
Pakistan started the chase desperate to finish things off early. Both the batsmen went for their shots and the runs came flowing. Hafeez’s confident bowling rubbed off on his batting as well as he dominated the opening partnership with Kamran Akmal. He got to a well made fifty in the 18th over as Pakistan closed in on the win. They won in the 21st over when Akmal struck a boundary in front of square on the off side. They had all their 10 wickets intact when the victory came. What an emphatic win!
West Indies played pathetically on the day and couldn’t come to terms with some quality spin bowling unleashed by Pakistan. If only they had someone to break the shackles when the spinners were operating and give able support to the obdurate Chanderpaul, things might have been different. Questions will be asked of this team when they reach home and some heads might roll as well. For a while in this tournament, against Netherlands, Bangladesh and Ireland, they seemed to have reinvented themselves but their batting collapses against England and India made them a confused side which led to the shocking capitulation today.
Pakistan will take huge doses of confidence from this big win which follows on the heels of their win against Australia. The form of their openers was a big plus for them in this match besides their bowling which has been sharp in this tournament save against New Zealand. They will be prepared for whoever meets them in the second semi-final at Mohali on March 30. Whether it’s India or Australia, they will be pumped up.