A look back at the first quarter final between West Indies and Pakistan gives one the feeling that the result of the game was sealed within the first half an hour itself. The early loss of Chris Gayle, soon followed by the in-form Devon Smith and exceptionally talented Darren Bravo hurt West Indies so badly that they could never recover from the shocking start. The Pakistan spinners were merciless too in their attack and the West Indies batsmen were practically at a loss for strokes as fell by the wayside one by one. While Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal were brilliant in their respective spells, it was Mohammad Hafeez’s spell that was the game breaker.
Hafeez, who opened the bowling, trapped Smith and Bravo in the same over with similar deliveries in the same over and that all but clinched it for Pakistan. Although Pakistan bowled well, the West Indies too need to take a large part of the blame for some poor batting. Everyone knew that Gayle’s wicket was the big one after Darren Sammy won the toss. Being so, the dashing left-hander should have reined himself in and got his eye in before having his mandatory go at the bowling attack. Instead, he attacked the intelligence of Umar Gul and paid the price for it. Even the two batsmen that fell to Hafeez could have done a better job than hanging on to the back foot and allowing themselves to be trapped. Once the top three were gone in a flash, the Caribbeans were in a daze from which they just did not have the firepower neither the tenacity to recover.
Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul brought all their experience into play and hung around for a good part of 18 overs. Sadly, while they played up time, the runs did not come even at the pace of trickles. And so, by the time Sarwan fell trying to break the shackles, West Indies hadn’t made any kind of progress at all. Chanderpaul continued to hold on to one end, but did not find anyone for company until number 10 Kemar Roach showed some stomach for a fight. However, in between, Afridi and Ajmal had eaten into the Windies batting. Kieron Pollard failed again, as did Devon Thomas and skipper Sammy. And the one who was performing, Andre Russell, was dropped because the skipper couldn’t sit out. All this only reiterated all this wrong with West Indies cricket. Clearly, they are going nowhere in terms of progress.
For Pakistan, this game will act as a great confidence booster. This is not the kind of performance you expect from an erratic side. But the fact that they batted with equal resilience and did not give West Indian bowlers an inch proves that there is something about this Afridi-led team that is different. After his exploits with the ball, Hafeez who has been shoddy with the bat for a number of years came good with the willow too. Buoyed by his bowling success he found the sweet spot of the bat more often than not and even inspired Kamran Akmal to find his form back.
Thanks to the opening partnership, the end result was an unimaginably comprehensive win. However, while the end was sweeter than ever, it was the beginning that made it all possible.
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