Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The hosts pull off a memorable opener

I tend to root for South Asian teams in the World Cup. But the West Indies turned in such a spirited and joyous performance against Pakistan today that it was impossible not to be exhilarated.

Overcoming an uncertain start, the West Indies did well to put up 241 for 9, powered by a quietly confident performance by Marlon Samuels (pic - 63 runs) and some lusty late order hitting. Yet when they wrapped their innings you got the feeling that their total was short of a serious challenge for the classy Pakistani batting line-up.

The bowlers come to the party
Clearly their frontline bowlers needed to turn in their best. Daren Powell (pic below), so impressive in the warm up against India, bowled ten superb overs on the trot and consumed both openers for only 42 runs worth of damage.

But it wasn’t just him. All the West Indian bowlers came to the party. Bowling a tight and disciplined line, they throttled the Pakistani batsman. Each bowler kept the length at three quarters or just back of good, making timing difficult with the extra bounce in the wicket. And they bowled just outside the off stump but consistently brought it in to the batsman, taking away their attacking options. As a strategy this sounds fine, but executing it is another thing. And these bowlers did it over after over.

The batsmen feel the heat
Dwayne Bravo was the only one who tried to get cute but even his line was such that the Pakistanis couldn’t put him away easily without risking their wicket. There was some misfortune for Pakistan, for sure. And no it wasn’t that their batsmen threw their wickets away. To be fair, other than Younis Khan, every batsman fell hitting a shot to a ball that deserved to be hit. Their shot selection could be blamed but not their approach.

Pakistan's recovery hampered
But the biggest problem with Pakistan’s recovery was that it had to be mounted on the backs of Yousuf and Inzamam. While Yousuf looked to be in touch, the mighty Inzamam was clearly struggling. And in a situation in which every single mattered and singles needed to become twos, Inzamam’s poor running game hampered his team. Their partnership of 60 did shore up the wickets but ate up more than 18 overs.

Later, as the pressure mounted for Pakistan, the West Indies bowlers stuck to their precise routine. Their bowling today was ominous if not intimidating.

Irfan Pathan, I hope you watched the game!

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