Grenada Beach in the Caribbeans is perhaps, the Pakistan cricket team's favorite resort. Some members of the team carry with them certain sweet and sour, memories of their adventures of the previous tours. No doubt, the islands have an awe-inspiring beauty both for cricket as well as recreation. This is why; the Pakistan contingent touring the Caribbeans is atleast fifty percent larger in size. The Pakistan team spent a long weekend there to play the two tail-end matches of the Cable & Wireless Triangular Series preliminary round. While Pakistan achieved a convincing six wickets win over Zimbabwe in the first match, it lost the second match to the West Indies by 17 runs mainly on account of its own faults and follies.
The pitch at the Queens Park Stadium in the Spice Island of Grenada had dry grass rolled over it and was not likely to help the fast bowlers. Since the Saturday's match was a contest between the two foreign teams, the crowd was scanty. The match was more crucial for Zimbabwe than Pakistan because a victory could bring them at par with Pakistan on the point's table and to compete for a place in the finals on the basis of run rate. On the other hand a defeat was bound to mark an end to their two months tour of the Caribbeans. They were determined to win but the luck had it otherwise!
Neil Johnson (43) and Craig Wishart (45) having given their team a solid start, Zimbabwe lost its first wicket at 84. Punishing every loose delivery and collecting singles and twos on every ball, they were maintaining an excellent ratio of around 5 runs an over. They had also decided not to play a risky shot. Since the two of them were not intimidated by the one time world's best pair of fast bowlers comprising Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, the bowling changes worked wonders. The introduction of medium pacer Abdur Razzaq and leg spinner Mushtaq Ahmed reinforced by Arshad Khan and Shahid Afridi restricted their strokes and the run-making spree. Zimbabwe was thus able to score 204 for 7 in its stipulated 50 overs. It was not a mean total by any standards. Pakistan had to fight hard to achieve the target.
Pakistan opened with the unassuming 18 years old Imran Nazir and the big game hunter Shahid Afridi. It was a belligerent start with the batsmen hitting a four in every over. Maintaining his habit of performing well in one match and relaxing in the other Shahid Afridi could not stay longer after scoring a brisk 19. Younis Khan and Yousaf Youhana come in only to have a fascinating view of the surroundings from the batting crease.
It was a glorious day for young Imran Nazir who left all the stalwarts behind in courage, tenacity and an excellent display of batsmanship. Though at a later stage he got considerable support form Inzamam-ul-Haq (34) and Moin Khan (35 not out), it was Imran's prolific century (105 not out) that brought Pakistan, the all important victory by 6 wickets in 43 overs. Pakistan was now the recognized finalist for the Tri-nation tournament.
The last match against the hosts at the same venue was considered to be of only academic value for the purpose of records as well as for the spectators but it had an inherent psychological importance. The victory in the match could be used to put the other side under pressure for the 3-match final. Pakistan took it lightly by making three changes in the team and bringing in the players, who had just acted as spectators on the tour. The foolish policy of experimenting with the out of practice youngsters at such a crucial juncture was instrumental in Pakistan's defeat.
The West Indies having opted to bat opened the inning with Sherwin Campbell and Philo Wallace against a refurbished Pakistani attack of Waqar Younus and the young, inexperienced and wayward Irfan Fazil. After watching his hopeless performance in an earlier match I had commented that "the boy desperately in search of good length and direction, was not yet matured for this level of cricket." By conceding 46 runs in 6 overs through his club standard bowling, he put Pakistan under tremendous pressure. The batsmen achieved such a command on the game that even the other bowlers could not create an impact on them.
Sherwin Campbell (56), Chris Gayle (42) and Ricardo Powell were in their fighting best as against poor fielding by Pakistan including some dropped catches. Even Moin Khan looked like a shadow of his original self behind the stumps. His bowling changes as will as the field placing were not up to the mark. The West Indies who had not lost a match in the tournament ended up with a big total of 248 for the loss of 6 wickets. The target was difficult but certainly not impossible.
By losing three wickets for only 24 runs on the board Pakistan had a disastrous start. Inzamam brought a glimpse of hope but was run-out as usual after playing a heroic knock of 66 valuable runs. Yousuf Youhana (56) was the other batsman who excelled. At one stage Pakistan needed 41 runs in 30 balls to win, a fairly achievable target provided the batsmen pick up the courage to fight. In their case it was not so. The tail being rather two fragile, Pakistan was all out for 231 runs, only 17 runs short of the target.
The defeat in this match was of Pakistan's own making. The selection of the team was poor, captaincy un-inspiring and the standard of fielding miserable. The hopeless bowling by Irfan Fazil conceding 46 runs in 6 overs and Wasti 29 runs in 3 overs, were the major cause of our defeat. Did not the tour management know the potential of these bowlers? With such careless, inept and irresponsible attitude Pakistan will have no chance to defeat the West Indies in the best of three finals commencing on Wednesday.
Cable & Wireless One Day International Series
Pakistan tour of West Indies