February 18, 2002

Hooper ton salvages face-saving victory for Windies

Skipper Carl Hooper's masterful unbeaten 112 helped the West Indies put a daunting 260 on the board, and the Caribbean attack put enough pressure on Pakistan to rustle up a win by a whopping 110 runs. The victory didn't alter the result of the three-match series, but salvaged some much battered pride for the West Indies.

Predictably, Hooper walked away with the man-of-the-match award, as Abdul Razzaq bagged the man-of-the-series honours.

After the West Indies had collapsed again and again in Sharjah, this time it was Pakistan's turn. They lost their first three batsmen for only 18 in the fourth over and last four for 23 to manage a most disappointing 150. On a good batting wicket, this was a display unworthy of a team which had won nine one-dayers and six Tests on the trot.

True, the target was stiff and Pakistan are not known to be good chasers. But it was the same attack they had mastered so thoroughly in the previous games. The only explanation for this shoddy show is that maybe the Pakistanis thought that the match was only of academic importance.

With four Pakistan wickets down by the 11th over, it seemed to be all over bar the shouting. After the West Indian seamers had undone the upper order, Hooper and Gayle mopped up the rest with their off-spin, never allowing any resistance to take root. With no partnerships going, wickets falling at regular intervals and the asking rate climbing up with each passing over, the writing was on the wall.

Gayle's part-time off-spin was good enough to account for Inzamam-ul-Haq (who in contrast to the previous match when he opened the innings, came in at seven), Rashid Latif, Waqar Younis and to end the innings, clean bowling Shoaib Akhtar for a creditable haul of four for 19.

Chasing a big target, Pakistan needed a quick and solid start. The man who could get them off to a flyer was Shahid Afridi. He clubbed Pedro Collins for a four at mid-wicket, but then perished trying to turn one to square leg uppishly, straight to Morton. Latif and Younis departed shortly afterwards. Youhana was the main hope, but when he too played a casual stroke, Dillon grabbing the caught and bowled chance, at four for 51 Pakistan could not have hoped to outscore the Windies.

Razzaq tried to play himself in with Shoaib Malik, but when they were sent back, bowled by Hooper and run out respectively, Pakistan had lost the match. Only the last rites remained to be completed.

Earlier, Carl Hooper (112, 127 deliveries, 8 fours and four sixes) played a great skipper's knock. With Ganga, Gayle, Morton and Hinds gone for only 61 by the 14th over, yet another defeat stared him in the face. But Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul had different ideas. By the time the stand for the fifth wicket was finally broken in the 45th over, these two had put together a West Indian record 154 runs in one-day internationals. The previous best for this wicket was 152 between Viv Richards and Clive Lloyd against Sri Lanka at Brisbane in 1982.

More importantly this was the first time in this series that the West Indies managed to put more than 200 on the board. After a slow start, both Hooper and Chanderpaul started calling the shots, and devoid of Wasim Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq, who between them have nearly 700 one-day wickets, the Pakistan attack wilted under their clinical assault. They mixed caution with courage and mastery; the first 50 of the stand came off 90 deliveries while the next 104 consumed only 95. The last 13 overs produced 113 runs, as the Pakistani bowlers were hit around the park.

Hooper and Chanderpaul both started slowly, milking the bowling for ones and twos until they were set. The Pakistanis had brought the run rate under four by the 23rd over, when Waqar for whatever reason brought the untested Naveed Latif to bowl military medium. Chanderpaul and Hooper took a boundary apiece, the former an imperious drive to long-on fence and the latter an edge to fine third man; 13 off an over. Sami and Afridi put the brakes on, but by then Hooper was really well set, and he stepped out to put Shoaib Malik beyond the long-on fence for a six to notch his 50 (5 fours, 1 six).

Chanderpaul clubbed Afridi for a six over mid-wicket and then drove him for four to mid-wicket. As if trying to match him stroke for stroke, Hooper hoiked Mohammad Sami over long-off six and then square-drove him for four.

As the two put their feet on the pedal, the figures of Pakistani bowlers took a beating. Sami had been miserly in his first spell, earning him a wicket for 18 runs off the first six overs. His other three went for 36. Chanderpaul (67, 93 balls, 4 fours, 2 sixes) ultimately fell to Razzaq, caught at the wicket. Looking for quick runs, Hooper cover-drove Waqar for six while Ridley Jacobs was promoted in the order. The two were unbeaten at the end as the last five overs yielded 40 runs.

260 for five was a great deal more than what Hooper would have expected after his top order was gone for 61 after he had won the toss. Ganga was again gone in the first over, edging a Waqar away-swinger into Rashid Latif's safe hands for a second successive blob. Inzamam at first slip failed to hold onto a Gayle edge off Shoaib Akhtar. To add insult to injury, Gayle unleashed two fours, pulling him straight back and to the mid-wicket fence.

Shoaib once again induced the edge from Gayle in his next over, and this time it was Younis at first slip who pouched it with a sigh of relief. Waqar removed Runako Morton with a delivery that moved back sharply. Hinds and Hooper hung in there for a while but an innocuous looking Sami delivery was guided by Hinds to Younis at first slip for the second catch of the day.

That brought Hooper and Chanderpaul together, and the two between them did a remarkable job to put Pakistan firmly on the back foot. The Pakistanis did not recover from the onslaught.