Pakistan too good for Windies
Tony Cozier in England - 16 May 1999
The West Indies paid the ultimate price for their maladjusted selection in their opening match of the World Cup here yesterday.
They chose to confront Pakistan, the best balanced and most talented team in the tournament, with only three main bowlers in order to cram their eleven with eight batsmen. It was a deficiency that was embarrassingly exposed, more especially since they were afforded the advantage of bowling first use of a pitch fresh enough to offer encouraging bounce and movement on a dull, gray morning.
Pakistan ruthlessly exploited the weakness. They plundered 123 off 30 overs from the West Indies's fill-in staff and recovered from 135 for six in the 39th over to 229 for eight by the time their 50 were up, scoring 85 off the last 10 overs.
It was always a demanding target on a pitch that changed little in character and against high-quality swing and, in the case of the hustling Shoaib Ahktar, extremely fast, bowling. Unlike their opponents, Pakistan possessed no weak link in their attack.
The West Indies seemed on course as they reached 72 in the 17th over for the solitary loss of Sherwin Campbell but Jimmy Adams then fell to Azhar Mahmood and Brian Lara and Ridley Jacobs went to Abdul Razzaq, yet another Pakistani teenaged wonder, all in the space of six overs and 29 runs.
After that, in spite of the supposedly extended batting, it was all downhill. Only Shivnarine Chanderpaul's composed 77 of 96 balls kept hope faintly flickering through to his dismissal at 202 that formalised the result as victory to Pakistan by 27 runs.
There were slices of misfortune that afflicted the West Indies.
Keith Arthurton strained ligaments in his left ankle in the field and was eliminated him after he had delivered only one over of his usually tight slow-medium trundlers. The injury obliged him to bat two positions below his station, at No.9 with a runner.
Pakistan captain Wasim Akram had made 26 of his vital late overs 42 off 28 balls when he should have been given out stumped off one of the expensive Adams leg-side seven wides. The special square-on cameras, mounted independently of the TV stations by the ICC, were duly recording at the time but all the replay umpire, Ken Palmer, was given on the BBC screen was one inconclusive picture to judge by.
Yet Pakistan owed their victory to the simple truth that they were palpably the stronger, better chosen all-round team. And they won in spite of the misjudgment of Akram, for all his background in county cricket in England, that surrendered the advantage of the toss.
Well past the half-way point, they were made to struggle but, short of genuine bowlers, the West Indies could not keep them in check.
With the experience perfected through years of experience in such conditions, Courtney Ambrose and Curtly Ambrose harrassed the top order with their probing length, line and deviation off the pitch.
They each yielded a meagre 12 runs from their first seven overs, Walsh on his old stomping where he enjoyed many such spells for Gloucestershire supplemented his accuracy with the wickets of the openers Shahid Afridi in his fourth over and the left-handed Saeed Anwar in his fifth.
In spite of a penchant for wides sprayed down the leg-side-of which he sent down nine of his 10-Mervyn Dillon maintained the pressure so that Pakistan were 42 for four when Dillon removed the compact, 19-year-old Razzack and the dangerous Inzamam-ul-Haq with the third and fourth balls of the 19th over. By then, Lara was searching for bowlers to take up the the slack for 20 overs once the contributions of Walsh, Ambrose and Dillon were deducted. He lost Arthurton after a solitary over and entrusted the task to his usually reliable second lieutenant, Adams.
In warmer climes and on flatter pitches, Adams's slow stuff, delivered from round the wicket, has proven difficult to get away. Here it was just fodder to the confident Pakistanis and was plundered for 57 off eight overs in three spells.
Ijaz Ahmed and Yousaf Youhanna first set things right with a fifth wicket stand of 60 off 67 balls before Dillon yorked Ijaz on the boot for an lbw decision with his first ball of a second spell.
Azhar Mahmood, later to make an impact with his bowling and claim the Man-of-the-Match award, was at the centre of the continuing revival. He scored 37 and added 33 with Youhanna and 74 off 53 balls with the rampant, left-handed Akram who hoisted a six off Adams and another off Ricardo Powell, given one nervous over on debut, and four fours in 42 off 28 balls.
The final flourish enlivened the large Pakistani element in a crowd of 6,500 packed into the unpretentious ground-as it no doubt did the team's dressing room.
The first item of business for everyone was to witness the first appearance in the tournament of Shoaib whose reputation for extreme pace preceded him.
He quickly gave it credibility.
Charging in off a run of 30 metres, much like his feared countryman, Waqar Younis, used to do, Shoaib hurried every batsman with his speed. Campbell was so late on a hook off his very first ball and the delivery so quick that it caught the bat half-way through the stroke and sailed over the third man ropes for six.
In his next over, Shoaib was again through Campbell before he could complete the stroke, clipping his off-stump with a ball that cut back.
Not long after, Jacobs added a more authentic six, a flick over squareleg off Akram. The left-handed wicketkeeper is not one to be rattled by anything but, after he inadvertently sent one from Shoaib off the shoulder of the bat over the slips and first bounce over the ropes, he was prompted into a couple of nervy strokes.
He survived the blitz and watched from the opposite end as his fellow left-handers departed.
Adams steered a catch to first slip and Lara, having stroked his first two balls from Razzaq to the cover boundary, impatiently skied the teenager to point off a leading edge. Jacobs himself then fell to Inzamam's second first slip catch, driving expansively at Razzaq whose each-way swerve rendered him the most effective, if not the fastest, of the bowlers.
Lara's dismissal triggered understandable jubilation on the field and among the chanting, flag-waving Pakistani supporters in the stands. The three-piece steelband was muted by comparison. Every team knows Lara's is the key wicket and, with the sole exception of Chanderpaul, none of the others challenged the theory. Chanderpaul's last six partners contributed a mere 22 of the remaining 101 runs as the left-hander mounted a forlorn effort to do the impossible.
When he was the last man out, there was a Bourda-like invasion of the ground by ecstatic fans. There are likely to be a few more if Pakistan continue playing like this.
Source: The Express (Trinidad)