September 21, 1999

Pace like fire

Pakistan, already without the injured Shaoib Ahktar, rested Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis so that they could introduce the latest express fast bowler to come off the assembly line in their third successive victory over the West Indies that ended the Toronto Cricket Festival yesterday.

Shabbir Ahmed, a tall, slim, gangling, 23-year-old, raised eyebrows with his speed and hostility and set tongues wagging with an unconventional action that will inevitably come under scrutiny of those on the International Cricket Council (ICC) committee who sit in judgement of such things.

He ended a long, loping approach with an ungainly delivery that was repeatedly shown by television replays to involve a crooked elbow, as much as a cocked wrist.

Umpire David Orchard at square-leg passed it as legal, but the doubts of the West Indian voices in the crowd of 4 000 who bellowed for him to watch that action were no unfounded.

Those who follow Barbados club cricket would immediately notice similarities with Gordon Maxwell, once of the Barbados under-19 team, more lately of BET.

Overcome by nerves, Shabbir sprayed three leg-side wides in his opening over, that flew past the keeper to the boundary and had eight more closer to the stumps besides in his ten overs.

But he ripped out a different stump three times to despatch Adrian Griffith, off, in his first, frenetic over and Ricardo Powell, leg, and Chris Gayle, middle, with successive balls in his second spell as five West Indies wickets fell for six runs off 47 balls.

While Shabbir shattered them with pace, Saqlain Mushtaq foxed them with deception, and Arshad Khan with accurate off-breaks on a dry pitch that yielded to spin.

With Corey Collymore, Reon King and Nehemiah Perry still absent with injuries and Hendy Bryan dropped, Courtney Walsh and Merv Dillon were the only two specialist bowlers in a side lopsided with nine batsmen.

A sizeable total was required to make a match of it and it seemed possible as Sherwin Campbell and the left-handed Wavell Hinds, both again batting with the confidence built by earlier runs, added 75 for the second wicket.

Saqlain, Arshad and Shabbir ruined the illusion in quick time.

Campbell was lbw to Saqlain's flighted drifter for 32 in the 18th over, Hinds was taunted and teased before edging a drive to slip off Saqlain in the 22nd, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul was drawn to Arshad's sharp off-break and stumped in the 23rd.

Create mayhem

Moin Khan, leading Pakistan in Akram's absence, then recalled Shabbir to create his mayhem in his first over on return, yorking Powell and beating Gayle for speed.

It left captain Brian Lara, Jimmy Adams and Ridley Jacobs to see what they could salvage from the ruins of 92 for six.

Mushtaq Ahmed, the crafty little leg-spinner who hardly gets a game since Saqlain arrived on the scene, saw to it that they didn't.

Lara lashed him over midwicket for six but both he and Adams topedged sweeps to short fine-leg and Jacobs got the worse of a dodgy caught-behind decision off Abdul Razzack.

With such limited bowling, the West Indies' all-out 161 was obviously a losing total.

Walsh lifted spirits among his countrymen on the field and in the stands by bowling Wajahutallah Wasti first ball and he and the lively Dillon made the Pakistanis battle for their runs.

Adams claimed the 17-year-old Hasan Raza to a catch at silly point in his second over but whatever fight there might have been was drained from the West Indies by the sight of Walsh leaving the ground after seven overs with a side strain, and his replacement, Bryan, and Powell dropping Inzamam-ul-Haq's spiralling topedged pulls at long-leg.

Soon, Chanderpaul was trundling his leg-breaks and getting Abdul Razzack caught in the deep off a long-hop and Campbell was having his first bowl for the West Indies to complete the formalities and a depressing tournament for the West Indies.

For Pakistan, the smiling, reinstated Akram again proclaimed his team the strongest in the world.

On the evidence, it was difficult to dispute it.