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Match Analysis

West Indies take heart from small gains to keep faint World Cup hopes alive

Scrappy contest sealed in final over as Pakistan rue lack of urgency with bat

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
19-Feb-2023
Shamilia Connell is relieved after dismissing Aliya Riaz, as West Indies clung on in a low-scorer  •  AFP/Getty Images

Shamilia Connell is relieved after dismissing Aliya Riaz, as West Indies clung on in a low-scorer  •  AFP/Getty Images

There's always that point at a World Cup when the trophy becomes secondary to the smaller goals teams have set for themselves, and for West Indies and Pakistan this encounter was it. They both targeted their match against the other as the one that would prove they are moving in the right direction.
For West Indies, beating Pakistan would add an 11th victory to their tally over them, from 17 meetings, and underline a dominance they don't have over any other side. For Pakistan, a win would continue a World Cup record in which they have beaten West Indies in the last two major tournaments - the 2020 T20 World Cup and last year's 50-over World Cup.
Only one of them got what they wanted, in a scrappy, low-scoring affair that should never have become the thriller it did after West Indies managed only 116 for 6. Hayley Matthews assessed the total as being "at least 20 runs" too short. There were times when Pakistan made it look that much too many.
They made much harder work of the chase than they should have, even given the slowness of the surface and the quality of the West Indies spinners. Pakistan went from needing less than a run a ball at the start of the chase, to eight an over after 11 overs, to 10 runs an over for the last three and 18 runs off the last over.
Asked if it left her with too much to do, Aliya Riaz, who came in with 57 runs needed off 41 balls, conceded that it was probably a stretch for her when her captain Bismah Maroof was dismissed. "We were a little bit slow early on, and the wickets also fell fast. The way (Nida) Dar was playing and was set, she could have taken it well, but unfortunately, she got out there. But my whole effort was to take the match with Bismah and then Bismah got out. If we had played a little bit faster, then maybe we would have won."
In hindsight, Pakistan may look at their best partnership - of 44 runs between Maroof and Dar which took 8.5 overs at a scoring rate of 4.98 - as the passage of play where the chase went wrong. Bismah's strike rate of 78.78 in this match will be scrutinised, especially as she also hit two fours, which means that she scored 18 runs off the remaining 31 balls she faced, and Pakistan's overall ability to rotate strike should be in their post-tournament analysis.
While West Indies faced 48 dot balls and hit nine fours, Pakistan saw off 51 scoreless deliveries and hit eight fours. Given the margin of defeat, you may point to the boundary count as the difference but a closer look at the match will tell you that Pakistan had many chances to pick off the four runs they needed for victory. Their running between the wickets was too hesitant too often and there were several occasions where they had the opportunity to turn a single into two, but refused.
Aliya recognised there is work to be done in that department. "There was a bit of miscommunication. The calling between the batters could have been better," she said. "And the strike rate can be improved. The target was not so high and it could definitely have been chased."
Matthews agreed and said West Indies knew "Defending 116 was never, ever going to be easy," but reminded her team of the importance of this match. "We really wanted to win this game against Pakistan, not taking away from any of the other games. We knew walking into this tournament, this was one of the games where we knew if we really put our head down, we had a serious chance," she said. "After being disappointed in that first innings with the total we put up, everyone knew that the 70% we might have given with the bat, we had to take that extra 30% and give it in the field. That's what really motivated us."
West Indies achieved that and have completed their allotment of group matches, and while progression to the knock-outs is not impossible (they need England to beat Pakistan and Ireland to beat India by approximately 59 runs or with 47 balls to spare), it's unlikely. So while they spend the next two days "sitting back and waiting and seeing what the other results go like in this tournament," they will soon have to turn their attention to the future and how to catch up to teams like Australia and England.
For Matthews, the key may lie in franchise leagues like the WPL, where she is the only West Indian player in the mix, the Hundred and the WBBL. "A lot of people look at these leagues as negatives taken away from international cricket, but for a team like West Indies that may not have the best domestic system, these leagues can be very fruitful and very helpful for us," Matthews said. "I know they certainly helped me from a young international player growing up and I can only hope that for the rest of the team, the girls get the opportunity to do the same things. And you know, I experienced playing cricket all over the world and learning from it as well."
Pakistan's players are entirely excluded from the WPL and have to wait until September for a WPSL to kick off, but they still have something to play for in this tournament. They take on England in their last match on Tuesday and like West Indies, it seems the tournament could end for them there. Unless they beat England and Ireland beat India, Pakistan will exit at the group stage, but that is not as much of a concern for them as making one last statement after failing to do so against West Indies.
"We will try to finish the tournament on a good note," Aliya said. "The way we played the first two matches - attacking cricket, with the same strike rate, fast and quick, we will play that match in the same way."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent for South Africa and women's cricket