10:32 am - Sunday May 26, 2024

West Indies dish out thrashing to enter semis

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West Indies scored 84 runs in their first 15 overs. They nearly doubled their total after that, smashing 82 off the last 30 balls of the innings. No Full Member team had ever conceded so many in the last five overs of a Twenty20 game.

It remained to be seen which part of West Indies’ innings, the first three-quarters or the final quarter, would make a bigger impact on the result as Pakistan began their chase, in a knockout game to determine who would take on Sri Lanka in the first semi-final on Thursday. In the end, West Indies could have declared after 15 overs and still won.

The timing of the assault by Dwayne Bravo and Darren Sammy – they put on 71 in 32 balls, having come together at 81 for 5 in the 14th over – was a knockout blow to Pakistan. You could tell by the way Sammy pumped his fists after pounding Saeed Ajmal for a straight six in the 19th over. It wasn’t arrogance or bravado. It was adrenaline.

It surged through the entire West Indies team, and some of it was still coursing through Krishmar Santokie’s blood when he pinged Ahmed Shehzad’s front toe plumb in front of middle stump with an inswinging yorker, first ball of the chase.

Shehzad, an unbeaten centurion in his previous game, was out for a duck. Pakistan never recovered. They were yet to take a run off the bat when Kamran Akmal faced up to Samuel Badree for the start of the second over, and two more dot balls provoked a scoop straight into wide mid-off’s hands.

The pressure, in Badree’s next two overs, got to Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik as well. Both were stumped, one foxed by a googly, one getting nowhere near the pitch of a legbreak. Pakistan were 13 for 4, and slipping to a painful defeat.

It had started so well for Pakistan. Their bowlers were on target, their fielders were buzzing, and West Indies were barely switched on. As usual, they weren’t rotating the strike.

Before this match, singles and twos – they hadn’t yet taken a three – had constituted 32% of West Indies’ runs in the tournament. Their percentage wasn’t just the lowest among all the Super 10 sides, but an outlier as well. Eight of the teams had scored 40% or more of their runs by actually running them.

The Powerplay brought West Indies the first three of their tournament, and four singles. Not all of their 24 dot balls, though, were the result of hitting to fielders. Some of them came via Sohail Tanvir’s awkward angle across the right-handers, exaggerated by some late away-swing.

Having been beaten three times in a row – the last two balls of the second over and the fourth ball of the fourth, when he came back on strike – Dwayne Smith tried to run the ball to third man and only managed an edge to the keeper.

By then, West Indies had already lost Chris Gayle, who came hesitantly down the pitch and thrust a hesitant bat at an offbreak from Mohammad Hafeez. After that stumping, Hafeez’s T20 record against Gayle looked like this: six balls, one run, three wickets.

At some points, it appeared as though West Indies were better off not taking the singles. Lendl Simmons, who kept the innings going in the early stages with a 29-ball 31, was out twice to the same ball. He wasn’t given when he was struck on the back pad trying to cut a skidder from Shahid Afridi, but the third umpire had an easier decision to make when Umar Gul’s direct hit caught him short as he tried to sneak a leg bye.

Gul nearly had another run-out when Bravo cut Afridi straight to him and took off for a quick single. His throw just missed the stumps at the bowlers’ end. Either side of that, West Indies had lost Marlon Samuels and Ramdin. West Indies were five down, Pakistan were on top, and their spinners were rushing through the overs.

West Indies took 23 from the 16th and 17th overs, but their run rate had only just gone above six an over. Pakistan were still in control. When Bravo hit the first two balls of the 18th over for six, though, something seemed to change. Gul had sent down two poor balls – length and back-of-a-length – and followed up with a wide as he tried to compensate with the yorker. That over went for 21.

Even Ajmal was rattled. The pair in the middle was powerful and seemingly irresistible, but Ajmal, trying to hurry them by bowling quicker and flatter, completely lost his length. Bravo smashed him for two big sixes, and Sammy hit him over his head for another before drilling one surgically between extra cover and the sweeper for four.

Four years ago in Gros Islet, Michael Hussey had taken 23 runs off five balls from Ajmal to send Pakistan hurtling out of the 2010 World T20. This over cost Ajmal one more run, and sealed Pakistan’s fate in the same way.

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