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Bowlers give West Indies narrow win

Neither batting unit impresses much as West Indies squeaks home by two wickets against Pakistan

Bowlers give West Indies narrow win - Cricket News
Chris Gayle top scored for West Indies with 39.
Pakistan’s bowlers have the creativity, guts and skill to give the best batsmen in the world a scare. They came close to defending a small total on a good batting surface, but West Indies just managed to get across the line, losing eight wickets in pursuit of 171. On Friday (June 7), at the Oval, West Indies picked up its first points of the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 with a two-wicket win that was set up by its bowlers.  

When Dwayne Bravo put Pakistan in despite picking just three frontline bowlers in Kemar Roach, Ravi Rampaul and Sunil Narine, there were a few eyebrows raised. But these were brought swiftly back down to earth by Roach, who combined consistent pace, a perfect length and judicious use of a well-directed bouncer to reel off a spell of 6-4-7-3 to reduce Pakistan to 15 for 3.

The first to go was Imran Farhat, caught well by Dwayne Bravo in the slips after a healthy edge was induced. Mohammad Hafeez played all around a ball that was slanted in to him and was bowled, and Asad Shafiq guided a lifting delivery into the waiting hands of the fielder at third man.  

Pakistan came perilously close to losing a fourth wicket when Roach struck Misbah-ul-Haq on the back leg with a ball that looked destined for the stumps. When the appeal for lbw was turned down, it was reviewed by the West Indies. Replays suggested that it wasn’t clear whether the ball had struck Misbah in line with the stumps, and when the call was left to the on-field umpire, the original decision stood. Soon after, Misbah hacked at a short ball, only to get a bottom edge, but Denesh Ramdin, who pouched the chance, failed to keep control of the ball till the catch was completed and Misbah was reprieved when he was yet to open his account. Ramdin would then be given plenty of opportunity to repent his gaffe.  

After the shaky start, it was inevitable that Pakistan slowed down with a view to consolidating, and Misbah found an able ally in Nasir Jamshed. Although the occasional streaky shot past the slip cordon was still in evidence, Jamshed and Misbah focussed on keeping the good balls out and garnering ones and twos where possible.  

After adding a painstaking 90 from 23.2 overs, Jamshed (50) succumbed to temptation, holing out to long off against Narine. As is so often the case, the end of an obdurate partnership was followed by a quick wicket as Shoaib Malik flicked Narine straight to short midwicket for a first-ball duck.  

Kamran Akmal, who has kept wickets to Saeed Ajmal so long that you would imagine he could pick a doosra, completely failed to read Narine’s away-going delivery and edged to Ramdin. For the second time in the innings, Pakistan crumbled, losing five wickets for just 31 as it slipped to 128 for 7.  

While the edifice crumbled around him, Misbah batted to a plan, holding the West Indies up with defiant defensive play. Every now and then, when the ball was there for the shot, Misbah was in perfect position to clear his front leg and hit the ball cleanly back over the bowler’s head for maximum. A brace of run outs did nothing to help stem the rot as the innings wound down. Unbeaten, Misbah top-scored with 96 from 127 balls, his innings including eight boundaries. But, as satisfying as his knock was, Misbah will not enjoy looking back at a scorecard in which only one of his mates made it to double figures along with him.  

West Indies showed that it was not the number of specialist bowlers in a line-up – it only picked three on the day – but how the bowlers stuck to their roles that counted. Roach roughed up the top order, Narine operated with idiosyncratic cunning and Rampaul ensured that the pressure was kept up and the trio shared seven wickets between them.  

When the chase began, a combination of purposeful bowling from Pakistan’s trio of left-arm quicks and the knowledge that the required rate was merely 3.42 resulted in sluggish cricket. Johnson Charles and Darren Bravo were both beaten by the steepling bounce that Mohammad Irfan generated, and at 15 for 2 West Indies was in danger of making heavy weather of a straightforward target.  

Chris Gayle dialed down his usual frenetic approach, only playing the big shot when he was sure there was no threat and steadied the innings, pushing the score along to 78 at a sedate pace when Ajmal drew the big shot and beat the bat with one that went the other way.  

Ramnaresh Sarwan then gave Pakistan a further sniff as he fended awkwardly at a lifter from Wahab Riaz. Marlon Samuels ran down the pitch to be beaten by Hafeez and was comfortably stumped and West Indies was down to 94 for 5.  

Kieron Pollard took all of 40 balls to score his first ten runs, but he knew that the game was one of wickets, not runs. Such an approach meant that Pollard needed to bat through the innings and see his side home, but he fell after doing all the hard work. On 30 from 58 balls – an inversion of his usual numbers – Pollard feathered an edge to Akmal with 34 still needed.  

In the end, West Indies squeaked home by two wickets, but it will know that such a batting performance may not go unpunished in future games.

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