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Malik, Sami propel Pakistan to victory

Promoted way up the order, Shoaib Malik treated the best crowd of the season here at the Sharjah Crickt Stadium to a dazzling unbeaten century, and Mohammad Sami claimed a hat-trick to land Pakistan an emphatic 51-run victory, their ninth on the

Agha Akbar
Promoted way up the order, Shoaib Malik treated the best crowd of the season here at the Sharjah Crickt Stadium to a dazzling unbeaten century, and Mohammad Sami claimed a hat-trick to land Pakistan an emphatic 51-run victory, their ninth on the trot, with more than 15 overs to spare.
For the second successive match, the West Indies showed a hint of a fight, only to cave in timidly in the end. While Pakistan somehow kept finding the man for the moment whenever they were in a tight spot, the Windies had no such luck.
Young Shoaib is a case in point; his remarkable innings, which has certainly advanced his credentials as an all-rounder, earned him the man-of-the-match award.
A whirlwind knock from Chris Gayle threatened to break Pakistan's sequence, but Shoaib Akhtar avenged the hiding he was given by Gayle (62, 45 deliveries, 6 fours, 3 sixes) by having him caught at point by Shahid Afridi in his comeback spell to bring Pakistan right back into the game.
So often these days when a West Indies wicket falls, it is followed by a bunch. Gayle's departure triggered a collapse as the remaining two Pakistani speedsters - Waqar Younis and Sami - claimed a wicket apiece in their second spell. But not before Wavell Hinds, who was lucky not to be given caught behind off Razzaq earlier, was castled by an Akhtar toecrusher.
From 101 for one, the West Indies quickly slided to 133 for five, as Waqar got his counterpart Carl Hooper plumb in front, and Sami bowled the debutant Runako Morton through the gate.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ryan Hinds batted sensibly in a stand of 45 for the sixth wicket, but then Razzaq accounted for both of them in the same over to kill hopes of a victory. The West Indies tail is not known for any displays of resilience, and Sami's marvellous hat-trick hastened the end as Ridley Jacobs was lbw while Corey Collymore and Cameron Cuffy were clean bowled.
When Gayle and Hinds were going great guns, raising 100 for one wicket, that of Darren Ganga, adjudged caught behind first ball of the innings, the West Indies seemed to be coasting. But once Pakistan got amongst the wickets, they kept chipping away until they had secured the victory.
Earlier, as Pakistan won the toss and batted, there was experimentation galore. Wasim Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq were rested, and Inzamam-ul-Haq was sent up to open the innings in the hope that he would regain some semblance of form. But a palpably out-of-sorts Inzamam flashed at a widish Cameron Cuffy delivery, edging it to Gayle in first slip.
Already dropped by Merv Dillon off his own bowling in the very first over, the bowler made amends when Afridi offered him a second chance. Seven for two, and out walked Shoaib Malik, who with Younis Khan tried to make a rescue effort. Cuffy, whose four overs out of the first five were maidens, and Dillon tightened things up, and Pakistan was slowed to a crawl.
As the two tried to open up, Younis was plumb in front after hitting Cuffy for a four to long-on; Youhana was trapped in identical fashion by Corey Collmore, not making the most of a reprieve when Jacobs failed to hold on to an easy chance. 51 for four in the 17th over, and Pakistan seemed to be drifting towards disaster when Naved Latif joined Malik in the middle.
With hard-hitting Latif (45, 70 deliveries, 5 fours and a 6 off Hooper over mid-wicket) taking charge, Malik decided to play second fiddle and by the time Latif departed, his lofted drive straight over Hooper's head finding Cuffy a few yards inside the fence, Malik was well set.
Having executed three lovely drives to the fence in the cover region, Malik notched his 50 off 90 balls, as Razzaq started where he had left the previous evening, twice clouting Collymore beyond mid-wicket boundary, once into the stands. Pakistan seemed to be on song as with overs fast running out Malik too went after the bowling with real gusto. He clubbed Ryan Hinds for two fours, at cover and square leg, to raise 50 of the partnership before Razzaq was dismissed, flashing at a wide Hinds delivery only to be splendidly caught by Gayle at point.
There was no stopping Malik now; he smashed Hinds over extra cover to raise the team's 200 and ease into the 90s, then flicked Dillon for four to long leg as wickets kept falling at the other end. Having reached his sparkling century, Malik took two boundaries off Dillon in the 49th over as Shoaib Akhtar and Sami fell with one over unused.
On a good batting wicket, 232 was not the kind of imposing total Waqar would have felt comfortable with, but he must have been relieved with it after the collapse at the top of the order.