This Pool B match at Christchurch between the World Cup’s two most unpredictable teams was, well, unpredictable.
Both sides were coming from defeats of a very different nature but from which they were both severely smarting, Pakistan because their conquerors were India, the West Indies because they lost to Ireland one of the supposed outsiders. While West Indies seem to have learned from their mistakes, particularly the fast bowlers, Pakistan seem to be deeper in the mire than ever, with their top order in disarray and their catching and out fielding below par.if anything , on today’s performance , Pakistan were flattered by the 150 run defeat.
That is not to say that the West Indies do not have problems. It is reasonable to assume that if they are to do well in the tournament there must be significant contributions from their two star players, Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels, with some help from big-hitting opener Dwayne Smith. But with the bat Gayle has looked decidedly disengaged – though he took a great catch diving to his left to dismiss Misbah – ul – Haq off the bowling of Andre Russell – and although Samuels struck some handsome blows he holed out when apparently well set.
In a way the non appearance of the big names has been a blessing in disguise as it has forced the lesser lights to stand up and be counted. The highly rated left hander Darren Bravo – who suffered the unhappy fate of being run out without facing a ball against Ireland- played coolly and elegantly to reach 49 and with Dinesh Ramdin also going well the West Indies decided to take the power play in the thirty first over, earlier than usual. But almost immediately Bravo pulled a hamstring and had to retire hurt and it looked as though that might be a critical moment as Lendl Simmons made a slow start. In the event the middle and late order performed splendidly . Ramdin and Simmons each made quick-witted and nimble-footed half centuries – Simmons on the back of a hundred against Ireland – and the redoubtable Darren Sammy weighed in with some bucolic heaves and swipes. But this was merely setting the stage for an astonishing assault by Russell who came in at the end to join Simmons and hit 42 off 13 balls.
Pakistan”s attack was not shredded – until the very end – but nor were they at their best. Length and line were too inconsistent. But they were badly let down by their fielders who dropped five catches: even Shahid Afridi, usually so reliable, dropped two. The best fielder looked to be the exciting young leg spinner Yasir Shah; it was a pity he could not be called upon to bowl.
West Indies would have been relieved to reach the benchmark 300 for the second time in two games. But as Ireland had shown that was no guarantee of victory. Ireland’s top four had made 23,92, 84 and 79 not out. It was to be rather different at Christchurch. Pakistan’s top four made 0, 1, 0 and 0. After three overs they were one for four, the worst ever start in a one day international. Jerome Taylor and captain Jason Holder, who with Kemar Roach had tried to bounce the Irish out, bowled like men transformed. Every time Holder made a decision it seemed to work. He moved a man into a fifth slip position and a catch was immediately presented. He replaced Taylor with man of the match Russell who immediately took a wicket, the crucial one of Misbah.
There really was no way back for Pakistan although Sohaib Maqsood played beautifully and Umar Akmal was his usual belligerent self. It is the top order that is the problem ; the veteran Younis Khan, such a great player especially in Tests, appears to be in the middle of an exquisitely badly timed form slump. The selectors must be rueing the mysterious omission of Fawad Alam.
Of course it is early days yet. It is still more likely than not that both these teams will reach the quarter finals . But Ireland’ s performance at Nelson means that all bets are off particularly if weather comes into the equation. There has only been one previous World Cup played in Australia and New Zealand and that was won by Imran Khan’s Pakistanis in 1992. A similar outcome is looking a little far fetched at the moment.
Bill Ricquier, 21/2/2015
Feature image: Sohail Khan congratulates West Indies Darren Sammy
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