Akhtar and Razzaq bowl Pakistan to a comprehensive win
From a position of relative security, West Indies were thrown into the depths of despair by a couple of umpiring decisions that left everything to be desired. It was a day of high action at Sharjah. A disciplined, determined West Indies team were shot out for 171 in their second essay, leaving them short by 170 runs, and handed down a loss that they by no means fully deserved. The umpiring however should not detract from the efforts of Shoaib Akhtar, menacing as ever, who bagged five wickets; Razzaq supported him splendidly with four.
The controversy began when play resumed after lunch when third umpire Athar Zaidi ruled Sherwin Campbell run out. Scampering a quick single, Campbell apparently managed to slide his bat just past the line when Rashid Latif received a throw from the field and whipped off the bails. Even with three camera angles it was impossible to conclude that Campbell had not made his crease. If anything, there was strong reason to suggest that the Bajan was well home.
Campbell's run out was tragic in more ways than one. Despite being in all manner of trouble at the crease, the opener turned middle-order batsman battled hard and managed to weather the storm. Just when he looked to be getting a measure of things he was sent packing and Pakistan had the ball rolling in their favour. Campbell made 20 (84 balls, 3 fours) and West Indies were 146/4.
The second dubious decision involved stumper Ridley Jacobs, adjudged leg before wicket to Abdur Razzaq first ball when replays showed the ball had clearly pitched outside the leg stump.
But between all this, there was the genuine bristling Pakistan aggression. Something seems to inspire the best in fast bowlers from this part of the world when a win is on the cards. Like sharks circling around the slightest scent of blood, speedster Akhtar and medium-pacer Razzaq knocked the stuffing out of the Windies.
The 55th over of the day, bowled by Razzaq, straight and full, with the slightest hint of swing saw West Indies slide from 149/4 to 150/7. Chanderpaul caught behind for nought, Hooper trapped in front of the stumps, and Jacobs lbw.
With the tail exposed, Waqar Younis handed the ball to Akhtar. Breathing fire, sending down searing yorkers, the speedster removed Merv Dillon and Cameron Cuffy before either could trouble the scorers and completed his five-wicket haul.
When Razzaq clean bowled Pedro Collins, Pakistan completed a 170-run win at the Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium. West Indies will be disappointed that four batsmen failed to score and another did not make it to double figures.
Razzaq ended with figures of 7.5-1-24-4 while Akhtar recorded a personal best of 16-7-24-5.
A solid win for Pakistan, but one cannot help feel, and it bears repeating, that the West Indies would be justified in feeling hard done by. The men from the Caribbean have always had a reputation of being suspect against spin and crumbling under pressure. Even without Brian Lara, their best batsman by a country mile, they appeared to be on top of the bowling in the first session of the final day. With thoughts of a brittle batting order at the back of their minds, West Indies openers Darren Ganga and Chris Gayle did a fine job of staving away the probing spin and loud appeals of the Pakistanis. Despite losing Ganga, West Indies reached 111/1 at lunch on the final day.
It was the sheer pace of Shoaib Akhtar that got Pakistan its first wicket. With his action almost continually under scrutiny, Akhtar will always remain a source of controversy, but equally a bowler who causes great excitement. The speedster, bowling completely unrestrained, got a ball to burst past the defences of Ganga (34 runs, 71 balls, 4 fours) with just 74 West Indies runs on the board. Was this the beginning of the much touted West Indies final-day collapse?
Sherwin Campbell (11 not out at lunch) in the company of Gayle decided it wasn't. The enigmatic cricketer knuckled down and defied the bowlers while Gayle blossomed at the other end. The tall left-hander who scored a half-century in the first innings repeated the feat, driving through the off side with characteristic flair. Getting his feet nicely to the pitch of the ball Gayle was able to smother the spin, striking the ball to the fence 14 times in his 111 ball unbeaten essay of 62.
But all that work was undone... first by the umpires, then by Akhtar, who was named the Man of the Match for his five-wicket burst. Rashid Latif, with 150 and 47* besides effecting four dismissals behind the stumps and being involved in two run outs, was overlooked.