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    March 14, 2007

    Dream start for Windies

    On behalf of my brother and I, let me say that it is an honour to crosspost here at Cricket24x7. We have a cricket blog called Rain, No Play that we started in January of this year. We are Jamaicans, so naturally our main focus is the West Indies. Our post on the West Indies-Pakistan match follows. Hope you enjoy.

    At the new Sabina Park today, the West Indies comprehensively defeated the Pakistanis by 54 runs. Inzamam won the toss and wisely inserted the West Indies. For the first 40 overs it seemed as if his decision was correct and even match-winning, as the Windies had crawled to 156/3. However, some magnificent hitting by Marlon Samuels and man of the match Dwayne Smith carried the West Indies to 241/9. Then a magnificent bowling and fielding performance took the Windies home to victory.

    Umar Gul took Gayle's wicket, the first of the World Cup

    The memories of last Friday's collapse in Trelawny must have been fresh in the minds of the West Indians as after Chris Gayle was out early, prodding at a delivery outside the offstump and offering wicketkeeper Akmal a simple catch, Chanderpaul put down anchor and withdrew into his shell. Chanderpaul was clearly under instructions to make sure that there wasn't another collapse as he scored 19 off all of 63 balls. In fact a few West Indian fans cheered when he was out, not realising the importance of occupying the crease. Ramnaresh Sarwan replaced Gayle and he rode his luck, as he was dropped a few times, notably off the first delivery he faced. He scored a brisk 49 as Chanderpaul held down the other end.

    At Sarwan's dismissal, captain Lara came to the crease to a rousing ovation from the crowd. Lara joined Marlon Samuels out in the middle and the two went about settling the innings after the loss of the three early wickets. Samuels was clearly the more dominant of the pair on this day, as he took the fight to the Pakistanis, hitting Rao Iftikhar for a huge six in one particularly savage over and spoiling his figures. Samuels' 63 included three magnificent sixes and the Sabina Park crowd enjoyed every moment of his innings.

    Scoreboard Showing Samuels Six

    Lara's dismissal brought an end to the enterprising partnership and Samuels' dismissal soon after, going for another 6 but finding long on, brought many jitters to the anxious Sabina Park crowd. Denesh Ramdin's dismissal at 183/6 in the 45th over seemed to have just about ended the Windies hopes of posting a competitive total. Then entered Dwayne Smith, he of the 7 point odd batting average over his last 20 odd matches. He even came below wicketkeeper Ramdin, a sign of a lack of confidence in his form? Smith then went about demolishing the Pakistani bowlers, hitting a couple sixes off the hapless Danish Kaneria. Smith found his form today, even as the main scoreboard repeatedly erroneously flashed Devon Smith's bio page. His match winning innings of 32 off 15 balls ended when he mis hit a delivery from Umar Gul and skied an easy catch to Inzaman at cover. The damaged had been done however, and Bravo and a six by Cory Collymore of the final delivery carried the Windies to their total. Incidentally, Collymore joins Viv Richards as the only West Indians to hit a six off the final ball of a World Cup innings. The total seemed about 20 or 30 runs short, but the Windies bowlers defended it well.

    Short-lived Pakistani celebration.

    In reply, Imran Nazir hit Daren Powell for six off the second ball of the innings. Powell had the last laugh however, getting Nazir with the very next ball as he tried a repeat shot, only offering a simple catch to Ramdin. A small but very vocal Pakistani contingent celebrated the early six, but soon became quiet as Pakistan slipped to 39/3. Jamaicans Jerome Tayor and Powell bowled with pace and fire in front of their home crowd and took the 3 early wickets. Powell bowled his ten overs on the trot and finished with 2 for 42, his efforts being appreciated by the crowd as he was applauded every time he returned to the boundary.

    Powell's pace rattled Pakistanis

    Pakistani captain Inzamam and top batsman Mohammad Yousuf went about repairing the innings, but were soon bogged down. One miserly stretch of 9 overs conceded only 13 runs. Collymore who surprisingly started ahead of the top ranked Windies bowler Ian Bradshaw, soon justified his selection, as he pegged back the Pakistani batsmen with his impeccable line and length. Lara made no mistakes on this day, and his choice to bowl Dwayne Smith ahead of Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels, paid off handsomely and Smith found his line spot on. He frustrated Yousuf into going after a rising delivery too close to cut and Yousuf handed Ramdin his third catch of the innings. Shoaib Malik joined Inzamam and set about trying to win the match as the required run rate was climbing dangerously high. When Smith trapped 'Inzi' leg before for 36, the writing was on the wall. Smith then found himself on a hat trick when Bravo took a magnificent diving catch in the cover to remove wicketkeeper Akmal straight up.

    That catch would have been the catch of the match and maybe of the tournament, if not for Bravo's own brilliance. In the 47th over he took a spectacular one-handed return catch without breaking stride on his follow through, to remove the stunned Umar Gul at 187/9. The innings ended the next over as Malik finally fell. Sabina Park went wild as the crowd fed off the energy of the West Indian fielding. It is not often that this is said about Windies fielding, but today they were first rate. The bowling was steady if not spectacular, and the bowlers only yielded 4 extras, 2 of which being leg-byes. A dramatic difference from what was commonplace in the past. If the Windies continue in this vein, they will go very deep in the tournament.

    Inzamam Wilting in the Heat

    As I watch the match unfold, it was obvious what an advantage playing at home was for the Windies. The fielders fed off the crowd's energy and vice versa. In fact one wicket seemed to have been engineered by the crowd, as crowd chanting and 'Mexican Waves' immediately preceded the fall of a wicket after a period of stalemate. Also, teams will have to get accustomed to the hot Caribbean sun. Inzamam, in particular, seemed drained when he was out in the middle.

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