Pakistan v West Indies, World T20, Group 2, Mirpur March 31, 2014

Big spin test for West Indies in must-win


Play 03:08
We should rotate strike better in middle overs - Sammy

This virtual quarter-final of the World T20 between Pakistan and West Indies has been expected for some time now. They are easily the two most exciting sides in this format. Their campaigns till now have panned out in similar fashion. Both went down to by the same margin of seven wickets to India in their opening games, both registered big wins over Bangladesh and finally, both narrowly overcame Australia in thrillers.

The Australia games provide pointers to how this contest could be determined. Glenn Maxwell seemed to have put Pakistan out of the game before they characteristically pounced on the opening his dismissal provided, their spinners kickstarting an Australian collapse from 126 for 2, and 146 for 3, to 175 all out. The West Indies batsmen came hard at Australia, then slowed down in the middle and seemed to have kept it for too late before their lower-middle order hitters swung them to a victory they celebrated wildly.

Australia stuck to a pace-heavy attack for most of the tournament, and it was one of the reasons they conceded big runs in almost every game. The last five overs of West Indies' chase were all bowled by quick bowlers, and the quickest of them, Mitchell Starc, was taken for 19 in the penultimate over by Darren Sammy.

It is no secret that West Indies' hitters like to have pace on the ball so that they can time those powerful swings. Pace will not come from Pakistan, except from Umar Gul, who himself is vastly experienced in this format and will not readily provide it at the wrong time. Barring Gul, there will be no pace at all. Instead, there will be Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez and Zulfiqar Babar. That means potentially 16 overs of spin in a 20-over innings.

In all their games so far, West Indies have not found it easy to take on spin. They did make 170-plus against Bangladesh, but that was helped by a shambolic fielding effort from the hosts. Young Australia legspinner James Muirhead removed Chris Gayle with the first ball of his second over. India just squeezed West Indies right from the start, and never allowed them to build any momentum. It can be argued that many sides have found it difficult against slow bowlers in these conditions, but West Indies' self-admitted reliance on the big shots puts them at greater risk.

Suresh Raina had said West Indies preferred to hit sixes and did not rotate strike much, something he said India would target, and did. While West Indies hit more sixes against India than they did against Bangladesh, the Indians were able to cut off the fours. West Indies managed nine against them, compared to 18 against Australia and 17 against the hosts.

Sammy had responded to Raina's comment by saying that if India thought West Indies were a six-hitting game, they should stop them from doing so. However, ahead of the Pakistan match, he acknowledged that turning the strike over against the spinners would be critical if West Indies were to make the semi-finals.

"Whatever approach we come with, we definitely have to rotate the strike," Sammy said. "I think the game against India, where it was spin-oriented, probably 60% of the balls were dot balls, so it's something we've been working on and hopefully we can rotate the strike and get the boundaries in between, and play much better against spin than we've done in the past. It's going to be a very difficult game, but it's a step we're ready to take.

"We've prepared ourselves, and we knew coming down to our fourth game it would be Pakistan and we knew exactly what we have to do, and spin is something that we have to conquer in that game. With that said, we back ourselves, put our runs on the board and defend it, or if it's the other way around, restrict them to a low total and chase it down like we did against Australia, but hopefully it's not 170 we chase.

"Yes, they've got all their spinners, but we've got number one and two in our dressing room as well. They've got to plan to bowl to our batsmen and face our bowlers as well... the last two days we've been practising the way we want to go out and play, whether it be rotating that ball in the middle - we know we could get the boundaries, so we just have to do that. They've got some quality spinners, which we are aware of, but they are not unplayable. In this format of the game, you respect your opposition, but at the end of the day we've shown that on any given day the best bowler can go for many runs, like that final against Sri Lanka [in the 2012 World T20]."

The tournament had started for West Indies with a test against quality spin that they failed to clear. Another one, probably a bigger one, lies in wait against Pakistan. West Indies seem willing to modify their approach. It should be some virtual quarter-final, this.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ESPN on April 1, 2014, 16:42 GMT

    who said W.I can't play spin please don't ever say that again,congrats to the W.I players and fans.

  • minhaz on April 1, 2014, 16:36 GMT

    I remember all the pakistani fans that were being harsh on Bangladesh for only scoring 98 against West Indies. Well, now Pakistan has the lowest score. Congrats!

  • ESPN on April 1, 2014, 13:18 GMT

    pak vl win

  • Muhammad on April 1, 2014, 10:27 GMT

    I am requesting all Pakistani cricket team fans that please pray for today match winning. This Pakistani team is strong enough in all department but we have seen in past that some time a bad day can bring them down which no body expected. So for this reason pray for the Pakistani team is required. During Match time we must not forget to go for pray at Mosque because only Allah can provide us victory. I am also requesting to Pakistani players if they reading my comments that please before going to play they must pray 2 rakat nafl and go with dua. I have seen many good matches and in cricket anything is possible so don't say we are good we have quality players only Allah knows what will happen at the end of day so please please pray and pray and don't forget your 5 times daily prayers with dua. Good luck , Good wishes for Pakistani teams and Pakistani supporters all over the world. Thank you.

  • Android on April 1, 2014, 7:59 GMT

    this will be a bowlers game

  • Android on April 1, 2014, 7:25 GMT

    when spin department concerns pak have lot of spinners....ajmal afridi hafeez...when pak drop one fast bowler pick one extra batsmen pak easily win today ......all non asian countries not play spin in these conditions....

  • Android on April 1, 2014, 7:20 GMT

    Both PAK and WI have good openers and spinners...but the made play a key role in this match...when compared to pakistan they have U.AKMAL ,MAKSOOD,MALIK bit WI concern not belonging on SAMULES,RAMDIN,BRAVO...but both teams having good finishers....PAK are comfortable againest spin but WI not when compared to two teams PAK are favourite.....see you later enjoy today match.........

  • RashmiKant on April 1, 2014, 6:52 GMT

    I think WI will have the due to spin advisor who hail from Pakistan and will be imparting info in regards to Pakistani spinners.

  • Dummy4 on April 1, 2014, 6:44 GMT

    It is very simple whoever chase 120+ runs will lose, wickets become sluggish and dew is not that of a problem so equation is simple

  • Dummy4 on April 1, 2014, 4:59 GMT

    I think Pak and WI are twin teams....i am more worried abt Pak batsmen struggling againt WI spin attack than vice versa.....both teams have hitters and both teams have inconsistant batsmen...batting first for either side wud be the key....

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