CricInfo at World Cup 1999
[The ICC Cricket World Cup - England 1999]

Wasim leads the way
Trevor Chesterfield - 16 May 1999

BRISTOL - Pakistan, the Jekyll and Hyde of the international if not World Cup circuit, were perhaps a bit bothered the other day when they wondered if they could not squeeze in an extra warm up game leading up to this year's event.

Rain had rusted their bowling attack as well as corroded some of their batting techniques in the three warm-up games in which the side had batted through about 60 overs in three waterlogged games. The bowlers were likewise hindered. They had managed to bowl a collective 17 overs.

Not at all the sort of preparation, you will agree, for their opening World Cup group B match against the West Indies at Bristol today.

Well, all the bother and sweat which had the manager, Dr Zafar Altaf bothered and coach Mushtaq Mohammad wondering was perhaps for nothing, Wasim Akram, the skipper, is all too well aware of the fickle nature of English conditions. They are a bit like their supporters: championing the team when they are on top and putting in the boot when they are losing.

At Bristol, with the scoreboard reading 105 for five in the 31st over, The Management must have been a little jumpy. We had the West Indian Mervyn Dillon swinging the ball both ways to blow the middle order apart. It did not look a pretty sight at all.

Ijaz Ahmed sparked a form of revival and Yousuf Youhana rebuilt the innings. And at 138 in the 39th over, Wasim would have quite happily accepted a total of 229 for eight as a total to defend. As Azhar Mahmood, who took two Test centuries off South Africa 15 months ago, played a lower-order anchor, Wasim did as Wasim (and captains for that matter) can do: 42 off 29 balls with four fours and a six help lift the total to something a little more respectable for former World champions.

At 72 for two in the 17th over the West Indies must have felt confident of pulling off an expect victory. The pitch was not all that difficult, bounce wasn't too bad and the bowling was steady but not brilliant. Then Jimmy Adams edged a catch and the next six wickets fell for and additional 70 runs.

With Brian Lara, caught between a rock and a hard place about whether he should bat or not, the molehill the Windies needed to climb suddenly became the slippery slopes of Cape Horn. With smart catching, clever bowling changes and Abdul Razzaq getting the crucial wicket of Lara, the calypso beat went out of the Caribbean rhythm.

Lara, nursing the arm injury which has plagued him since the tour of South Africa, had already lost Keith Arthurton to a crippling hamstring. The all-rounder batted with a runner but was far from effective and with no Carl Hooper about, they were always going to be a batsman and bowler short.

There was a touch of controversy towards the end of the West Indies innings when off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq and wicketkeeper Moin Khan went up for a dismissal, claiming Dillon being bowled. South African umpire Dave Orchard came to his Aussie colleague Darrel Hair's rescue when he said, as the TV replay confirmed, the ball had bounced on to the stumps from the wicketkeeper's pads.

A bit naughty of Moin to claim the wicket, but by that stage there wasn't much left in the game for the West Indies but to bat out to save a little face and help their net run rate. Losing by 27 runs was not a disgrace, but being bowled out does not help their cause at all.

What it does confirm that with Wasim Akram in charge, Pakistan can be quite formidable.

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