After achieving a convincing five-wicket triumph against Zimbabwe at St Johns (Antigua), the Pakistan team anxiously awaits its first encounter against the West Indies at Kingston on April 12. In view of the fact that Zimbabwe had never won a one-day series and that they had already lost the first two matches of the Cable and Wireless limited over series to the hosts, the victory at Antigua was more crucial for Zimbabwe than Pakistan.
In one-day cricket Zimbabwe are considered to be as good as any other team on its day but unfortunately, the dawn of the favourite day did not appear to uplift them. By losing the first two matches, they had almost lost half the battle. With the left over strength and determination to bounce back, Zimbabwe needed to win a match against Pakistan to remain in contention. As the result showed, it was not an easy task.
In contrast Pakistan had taken the field after a magnificent triumph at Sharjah, where it clinched the Coca-Cola Trophy by defeating the indomitable South Africa. By emerging victorious in the last three matches, once against India and twice against the Cup favourites South Africa, Pakistan were riding high on morale and fighting spirit. In this scenario, it was not difficult for the spirited Pakistan team to brush aside the opponents, still the game confronted the two sides with lot of anxious moments.
The St John's Stadium was gorgeous with attractive landscape around and a refreshingly green ground, the type that one would wish to have in Pakistan. Although Pakistanis have generally been crowd-pullers, the match attracted few spectators. The tournament being the first triangular ever staged in the Caribbeans, the people were perhaps not yet tuned to watching two foreign teams fighting against each other on their soil. Maybe, Pakistan's appearance at Kingston against the home team will draw cricket fans from all nooks and corners.
In the opening tie against Zimbabwe, the Pakistan team was wihtout Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar, the leading pair of speedsters, it still possessed the strength good enough to humble Zimbabwe which the team ultimately did.
Having opted to bat first Zimbabwe commenced the innings with absolute confidence. Facing Pakistan's accurate pace attack, they kept a steady pace of scoring with three runs an over raising it to four by the 12th over. Neil Johnson (20), Grant Flower (36) and Stuart Carlisle (30) had laid a solid foundation for the team. They lost the third wicket at 100 but started tumbling down when Pakistan introduced the spin bowlers. Confronted with a well-balanced Pakistan bowling, Zimbabwe were bundled out for 199 runs. Though the wickets were evenly shared between the spinners and the pace-men, it was the spinners' guile that bewildered the Zimbabwe batsmen.
A total of 200 runs to win was not a mean target but by dint of its form, fitness and high morale, the Pakistanis were fully determined to win. Though Pakistan lost both Imran Nazir (6) and Younis Khan (6) rather too early, Shahid Afridi (69) and Inzamam-ul-Haq (32) held the reins with confidence. Both of them, however, threw their wickets away, caught at deep mid-on in an effort to touch the sky. This was followed by another serious mishap when Yousaf Youhana (21) was run out on account of a faulty call between him and Moin Khan. The undesirable adventurism could have proved dangerous for the team had Moin Khan (25 not out) and Abdur Razzaq (28 not out) not followed a steady path to bring the team to the winning total of 200 for the loss of 5 wickets.
With this victory Pakistan has commenced the Cable and Wireless Trophy 2000 on a winning note. Wasim Akram's return from the Dhaka match will certainty add more strength and stability to the Pakistan side facing West Indies at Kingston. The West Indies and Pakistan may not be the arch rivals, the West Indies do believe that Pakistan is capable of playing blinding cricket at anytime and are extremely dangerous opponents. If the team could perform to each player's ability and potential even a combination of the best available cricketers would find it difficult to beat them.
The Pakistan team will be fighting hard to achieve its cherished goal of defeating the West Indies on their soil. Defeating a team like Zimbabwe does not add a plume to the West Indies cap. The team not at its best continues to suffer from the ill effects of some disastrous foreign tours that it have in the recent past. The matches are expected to be closely contested. They will also draw tremendous public interest all over the world.