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March 13, 2007
The West Indies shrugged off any early-tournament nerves with a convincing 54-run win over Pakistan in the opening match of the World Cup at Kingston in Jamaica, with a notable allround performance from Dwayne Smith.
It was an impressive win, not least for their ability to absorb the expectation of hosting their first World Cup. Furthermore, the total they were defending was by no means out of Pakistan's reach. Yet their bowlers - who admittedly are all much of a muchness - hunted in a pack and, unlike Pakistan's, never let the batsmen dismantle their confidence, or their lines.
That they took a wicket with the third ball of Pakistan's reply probably helped, too. Their pack leader for the day, Daren Powell - having been hit for a brazen six the ball before - induced a thick outside edge from Imran Nazir, destabilising Pakistan's fickle confidence. Younis Khan puffed out his chest, but only briefly, and Mohammad Hafeez spooned a catch to Brian Lara. At 39 for 3, Pakistan were throttled by Powell and Jerome Taylor, as Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf chose survival over attack: in one particularly asphyxiating period, a nine-over trough yielded just 13 runs.
The moment the bowlers' control waned Inzamam pounced, bashing three fours of the highest quality and injecting essential pace into an innings which was going nowhere. Enter Smith. His medium-pace infuriated Yousuf who was troubled with consecutive deliveries, before he fell to the sucker-punch in the third, edging him behind.
Inzamam fell soon after trapped lbw and Smith was on a hat-trick when he removed Kamran Akmal. Pakistan's hopes rested on Shoaib Malik, undoubtedly a gifted player but the task - 126 from 18 overs - required rather more than one man's hopeful slogging. Smith's partner in crime was his namesake, the uber-energetic Bravo who added a mouth-watering display of medium-pace, fielding and catching. After removing Iftikhar Anjum, he nonchalantly stuck out his left hand to catch Umar Gul in his follow-through to end Pakistan's hopes, and raise his side's own tournament aspirations.
If anything, their disciplined bowling performance masked a staccato effort with the bat. There were plenty of nerves from their top three - particularly Ramnaresh Sarwan, but if anything he thrives in adversity and deserved a fifty. Without Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif, Pakistan's potent duet, Gul and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan were Inzamam's strike bowlers but only Gul rose to the occasion, removing Chris Gayle and troubling the top five with a consistently good line.
Rana, whose death-bowling in previous seasons has been irresistibly cruel, was limp and inaccurate and Pakistan had to rely on Iftikhar who didn't disappoint. In fact, the West Indies were constricted to such an extent that even Brian Lara's 37 appeared pedestrian; it was Marlon Samuels who took on the bowlers, launching three magnificent sixes in his swift 63. But with his wicket came the feeling of inevitability, a feeling which morphed into dread when they slipped to 186 for 6.
But this was Smith's day and, with little care for the orthodox, he smashed 32 from 15 balls to the crowd's delight, edging the hosts' total to something resembling a challenge. Fortunately, their bowlers outdid themselves and Smith, in particular, ensured Pakistan didn't have a sniff of a chance. If they play like this for the next six weeks - regardless of how far it takes them - it will be a sight.
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