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The Bulletin by Anand Vasu
December 7, 2006
A great game of attritional cricket on a pitch with a bit of life in it saw Pakistan prevail over West Indies at Faisalabad, successfully chasing 152, but only by two wickets. The capacity crowd, watching cricket under lights for the first time at this venue, was voluble in its support of the team, and its captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq, who steered his team home with a steely knock.
After Pakistan 's bowlers had done their bit, restricting West Indies to only 151, their batsmen needed to back it up with a competent performance. Instead, they played loose cricket early on, and as West Indies fought tooth and nail, a game that should have been won on the canter turned into a nailbiter. Mohammad Hafeez flashed at an outswinger first ball and edged to Denesh Ramdin. Imran Farhat chopped hard at a ball that was close to his body and was well caught by Runako Morton at second slip. Then Kamran Akmal guided a wide half-tracker straight to point and Pakistan had lost three wickets thanks to poor shot selection with 50 on the board.
Younis Khan and Inzamam, the last pair of specialist batsmen, then set about repairing the innings. The fact that Inzamam took 18 balls to get off the mark tells you just how tidily the West Indians were bowling. Younis too showed great concentration early on, reading the situation well and choosing stoic defence in place of aggression. That said, though, he could not resist playing his favourite hook shot when Taylor dropped one short, and the ball went straight up in the air for Ramdin to jog across and catch. Younis had made 24 and Pakistan were 80 for 4. Soon after, when Shoaib Malik gently guided Ian Bradshaw to the keeper, Pakistan were really in trouble at 90 for 5.
Pakistan's hopes then rested squarely on the broad shoulders of Inzamam, who had stood firm like a rock at his end, unmindful of a slow run rate. Abdul Razzaq, equally capable of murdering attacks and getting bogged down by them, was constantly spoken to by his captain, no doubt stressing on the fact that all that was needed for a Pakistan win was sensible cricket, and that the loss of one wicket could expose the tail with too much left to do. It seemed to be going well, and the combine had added 28 for the sixth wicket, pushing the score to 116 when Brian Lara brought Collymore back into the attack and Razzaq feathered a nick to the keeper.
Inzamam, who had waited and watched, playing out the frontline bowlers, pounced on Marlon Samuels, cutting and pulling him for successive boundaries. Then Samuels pulled it back, trapping Rana Naved-ul-Hasan in front of the stumps. Abdul Rehman nicked Bradshaw only for Ramdin to put down the catch. But West Indies did not give up, and soon after Ramdin made amends, catching Rehman off Taylor , picking up his fifth catch, with 5 still needed for victory. In the end, though, Inzamam, a picture of patience and fully composed even under pressure, paced his innings to perfection, and when he pulled Taylor away to the fence for the winning runs, the crowd erupted. Inzamam's unbeaten 42 was worth a whole lot more than some of his hundreds made in easier conditions.
The early signs that this game could be one for the bowlers came when Inzamam won the toss and chose to put West Indies in. His decision was immediately vindicated as Lendl Simmons, the nephew of former West Indian batsman Phil Simmons, tickled the second ball of the innings, from Umar Gul, into the waiting hands of Akmal. When Chris Gayle went in the next over, smartly caught in the slips by Inzamam as he played slightly inside the line of a ball from Naved-ul-Hasan, West Indies were in trouble at 2 for 2.
To the credit of Pakistan 's bowlers, they did not get overly excited in conditions that aided the quicker men, with the ball moving in the air and off the pitch. They put the ball in the right areas, and repeatedly the ball beat the edge of the bat. Equally, though, credit should go to Daren Ganga, who toughed it out in the middle when not much was going his way.
But, having done all the hard work in seeing off the new ball, Ganga fell, against the grain of play, closing the face of the bat early to a ball from Rao Iftikhar Anjum and presenting a simple catch to Inzamam at short cover. Ganga had made 21 and West Indies were 48 for 3.
Then Lara was involved in a suicidal run, and found well short of the crease when Malik picked the ball up inside the circle and lobbed it to the bowler to effect an easy run out. Dwayne Smith was then cleverly out-thought by Rehman, the debutant left-arm spinner. After two deliveries that turned sharply, Rehman fired in the arm-ball, and it was perfectly directed and trapped Smith in front of the stumps for a duck. Soon after Samuels, who had put away all his attacking strokes to knuckle down and play a patient innings, attempted to force the pace and chopped Rehman to Younis at slip. West Indies were teetering at 79 for 6 and for a moment it looked like it would all go pear shaped.
Then Morton and Ramdin counter-attacked in honest, efficient fashion. Morton took his time to get set, but once there he began to thump the ball back down the ground with power. He managed to send a couple of balls sailing over the leg side, and Ramdin contributed by swatting a full-toss for six. When Ramdin was brilliantly run out by a direct hit from Hafeez at point, and Morton (43) duped by a slower ball from Naved-ul-Hasan that he could only swat to midwicket, West Indies folded on 151. In the end, it would prove a few runs too short.
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