Pakistan's gamble pays off
John Ward - 16 May 1999

CricInfo report

After a shaky start Pakistan wrested control of this match from the West Indies with some fine and measured bowling. In the end the West Indian batting fell well short of Pakistan's 229 for 8. Once again it was clear how much the West Indian batting depends on Lara. He no doubt regrets the risky and unnecessary stroke that brought about his dismissal, but his team needs to learn how to fight back without him. For Pakistan it was perhaps a narrow escape, as Wasim's decision to bat first might well have backfired on him.

Pakistan captain Wasim Akram won the toss and decided to bat against the West Indies on an overcast day. This was not a decision that received widespread approval, as conditions were thought to be more in favour of the bowler early on, and in Ambrose and Walsh the West Indies had the ideal bowlers to take advantage of any assistance.

Pakistan struggled early on, with Saeed Anwar looking particularly uncomfortable, and some confusion between Saeed and his partner Shahid Afridi over what constituted a run did not add to their sense of security. The first chance of the match came when Saeed edged Ambrose to first slip, only for Sherwin Campbell to drop the catch. Shahid however was the first to go, edging an easy catch to wicket-keeper Ridley Jacobs from Walsh. In Walsh's next over, Saeed played a rather half-hearted drive high but not hard over mid-on, where Lara covered the ground well to complete the catch over his head - out for 10 off 32 balls in a most unconvincing innings.

Mervyn Dillon had trouble with his line, too frequently pushing the ball down the leg side, but showed improvement in his fourth over, bowling Ijaz a beautiful leg-cutter which beat him outside off stump, then had him in trouble by bringing a ball back hard to rap him on the pads. His predominant movement was off the seam into the bat, and Ijaz acknowledged a very good over when it was completed.

In his next over Dillon pitched the ball well up, brought it back off the pitch and bowled Abdur through the gate. Inzamam came in and departed first ball, trying to hook and skying an easy catch to the keeper off the top edge. Yousuf Youhana came in to face the hat-trick ball, but instead Dillon put it down the leg side, to be called for a wide. Next ball was a beauty that moved away late and beat Yousuf just outside the off stump.

Dillon continued to be erratic, mixing leg-side wides with testing deliveries. But he was still good enough to take the wicket of Ijaz, who moved too far across to an inswinging yorker, was struck on the toe and given out lbw - literally adding insult to injury.

This quietened the match down for a while as Yousuf, generally a quiet accumulator rather than a hitter, settled in with Azhar Mahmood to consolidate. Yousuf stepped out and played a superb cover drive to the boundary off Simmons, but then spoilt it by having a completely uncharacteristic heave off the same bowler and skying a catch which the bowler himself took with ease. He had laid the foundation for a vital innings, only to throw it away.

Wasim Akram announced his arrival with a pull for four, one bounce over midwicket, off the second ball he received, from Adams, but then became rather tied down. Perhaps a bit desperate, he clearly premeditated a pull over square leg for four, which was successful; next ball a full toss was put in the same area for six.

Azhar suddenly decided to climb in on the act, as he leapt down the pitch and hit Adams for a six over long-on. There was a surprise bowling change as Lara brought on Ricky Powell to bowl, a move he had reason to regret, as his over went for 16 runs, including a four off an edge and a six over long-on by Wasim.

Azhar now threw all caution to the winds. As Ambrose returned to the bowling crease, Axhar hit him for four, a flick over long leg, and a six from a full toss well over the midwicket boundary. But such levity at the expense of a great bowler rarely lasts, and next ball Azhar hit the ball straight down the throat of substitute Nehemiah Perry at square leg. His innings ended with a real bang, off 51 balls and including just one four and two sixes.

Wasim did not last much longer, going for an ambitious pull off Walsh, brought back for his final over, and losing his leg stump. His 42 came off only 29 balls, and included 4 fours and 2 sixes. Some breezy hits by Moin Khan in the final over, bowled by Ambrose, took Pakistan to 229 for eight, better than had been expected at times during their innings. One would not usually expect it to be a winning total, but there was always the feeling that if Lara were to fail the West Indies batting could prove fallible.

Shoaib Akhtar is regarded by many as the fastest bowler in the world, and his first ball did nothing to alter that view as Sherwin Campbell, going for the hook, got enough of a top edge to send it for a six over third man. The next ball was if anything even faster, and Campbell was well beaten for pace outside the off stump.

In his next over, Shoaib again beat Campbell for sheer pace, bowling him through the gate for 9, scored off 14 balls. Jimmy Adams came in and struggled against the extreme pace of Shoaib, but got off the mark by driving a slower ball backward of point for four. After a single by Jacobs, he faced Wasim and edged him just short of slip. In his next over Jacobs, trying desperately but in vain to avoid a lifting ball, got himself a fortuitous boundary when the ball flew off the handle of his bat and almost carried for six. Despite this, he had the nerve to drive the next ball, of fuller length, to the long-off boundary.

Adams, who was beginning to look good, perhaps tried to be rather too clever; he tried rather unnecessarily to steer Azhar down to third man, rather than use the full face of the bat, but only succeeded in edging a straight-forward catch to Inzamam at slip.

Then came the moment the crowd had been waiting for, as Brian Lara came in to play his first innings of the tournament. It was worth waiting for, as he drove his first ball from Azhar handsomely through extra cover off the front foot for four, and then cut the next to the point boundary. He continued to play very positively, although a good throw might have seen him run out at one point. Then he went on the attack once too often, trying to hit Abdur Razzaq across the line, but skying a catch to the substitute fielder Mushtaq Ahmed at point. The ball swung from leg to off, but a lofted stroke across the line was not the safest solution. His 11 had been scored off 9 balls.

Another possible run-out was missed when Chanderpaul set off on a second run, to be sent back, but the throw was poor. For his part, Jacob escaped being well stumped by Moin Khan by a split second, but he was not to last much longer. Lashing at a widish ball from Abdur, he was caught by Inzamam at second slip. He had held the early batting together with 25 off 53 balls, but at 101 for four, with Lara out, West Indies were in a rather uncertain position. Chanderpaul and Powell concentrated on consolidation, but found it difficult against tight bowling by Abdur and Saqlain, backed by well-placed fields. Eventually Powell seemed to get frustrated, tried to hit Saqlain over the top, and only succeeded in hitting a high catch to Yousuf at deepish midwicket.

Phil Simmons came in, and the policy then was clearly to play sensibly without extravagances. He and Chanderpaul did so, but the required run rate rose gradually until it reached almost six an over. Then came a vital blow as Simmons, perhaps impatient, flashed outside the off stump to give a straightforward catch to Moin. That extra wicket put Pakistan on top again and, with Arthurton injured although likely to bat, the balance of the match was moving increasingly in their favour.

Ambrose did not last long. He had only a single to his credit when he fished outside the off stump to a ball from Abdur and was adjudged to have snicked the ball to the keeper, perhaps a controversial decision. This brought in the injured Arthurton, with Powell as his runner. Virtually everything depended on these two now, especially Chanderpaul, uninjured and well set.

Gradually Chanderpaul began to play his strokes, timing the ball nicely both through and over the field. But Arthurton mistimed a stroke to be caught by Saeed off Azhar at backward point, for 6 off 14 balls, and the West Indies declined to 161 for eight. The run rate at this stage was over seven an over and West Indian hopes were verging on extinction. Chanderpaul glided a ball from Shoaib, who was beginning to look tired, to the third-man boundary to reach a cultured and invaluable fifty. He continued to look for runs safely but enterprisingly, but it now seemed that his main aim was to keep the margin of victory as low as possible. Off the final five overs they needed 47 runs.

There was some controversy in the 46th over, bowled by Saqlain. Firstly there was an argument about whether Dillon was bowled behind his legs, with neither umpire able to see for certain. Next ball there was an appeal for a stumping, and then Moin dropped a catch. Perhaps the most important factor was that the West Indies failed to score a run off any of them. It was an excellent and unlucky over by Saqlain, but it left the West Indies with more than 11 an over required to win.

Neither batsman was able to make much progress during the next two overs, and 34 were needed off the last two overs. When Shoaib bowled the 49th over, Chanderpaul was hit on the foot by a fast yorker; Dillon called for a run, which was quite possible except for the fact that Chanderpaul was too injured to move. Dillon was easily run out at the bowler's end.

The last wicket fell as Chanderpaul tried to flick Shoaib over the square leg boundary, but only succeeded in skying a catch that was well held by Yousuf. Victory went to Pakistan by 27 runs, and Wasim must have been glad that his decision to bat first had not proved fatal.