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08 February 201623:59 By Sidhanta Patnaik, Fatullah

Super sub Chemar Holder keeps it full, and simple

Umair Masood, Pakistan’s quarter-final centurion, makes a mark with his temperament in a high-pressure situation

Super sub Chemar Holder keeps it full, and simple - Cricket News
Considering how up and down things are in West Indies and Pakistan cricket, it is difficult to predict the career paths of Chemar Holder and Umair Masood. But, seeing that their first impressions on the world stage – at the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2016 – have left an indelible mark, one wonders how far they could go if nurtured properly.

Holder’s spectacular pace bowling (2-26 from seven overs), and Masood’s counter-attacking 113 from No. 6 after Pakistan Under-19 had been reduced to 40 for 4, were the standout passages of play in West Indies Under-19’s five-wicket win in the fourth quarter-final of the World Cup at Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium in Fatullah on Monday (February 8).

Holder’s story is more interesting because of the route he took to play in this game. Having picked up only three wickets for Barbados in West Indies Cricket Board’s Under-19 regional limited-overs competition in July last year, Holder was not a part of the three preparatory camps building up to the World Cup.

He got his next taste of cricket on his List-A debut for Combined Campuses and Colleges in the inter-regional Super50 in January this year. In his third game against Windward Islands, Holder took 5 for 22 in six overs as the opposition was bundled out for 66 in pursuit of 158.

Back in the radar of the selectors, Holder got a call to fly to the World Cup as replacement for Obed McCoy, who suffered a finger injury after the warm-up games.

“It’s big news,” said Holder, a student of St Leonard’s Boys School in Barbados, with a laugh about his initial reaction on being picked. “I was happy but shocked.”

Reflecting on the game that brought him back into the limelight, Holder, who loves watching videos of Curtly Ambrose for his “short balls and consistency”, added, “It was a good feeling because I played against international players, and taking five is a big thing.

“Coming here now, I am not getting complacent. The wickets may not be as good and fast as back home, so I had to bowl fuller lengths and keep it simple.”

If finding the right lengths in his first game in the subcontinent was not impressive enough, the manner in which he seamlessly fitted into the setup spoke of his adaptability. “It’s the first time I am meeting him and he seems a very intelligent guy,” said Dwayne Gill, the West Indies manager. “He came two days ago and went straight to practice. So, what we had to do is track where he was. At each stop, he would communicate with us to make sure he was at the right place at the right time.

“It’s very easy for a young man to get lost in this travel. To go through that and get here and want to practice the same day, it says a lot about him as a person.”

Holder hardly looked like he was suffering from jetlag as he hit his rhythm straight up with a short delivery targeting Zeeshan Malik’s body. He struck in his ninth delivery when Malik, having been setup by full deliveries, was surprised by a short one. Five balls later, Holder struck again when he had Shadab Khan caught at slip off a back-of-the-length delivery.

Understandably, Holder looked to be low on fuel by the end of the first spell, but returns of 2 for 16 in six overs had given Alzarri Joseph, who has hit the 145kph mark at least twice in four matches, an ideal partner.

From hereon, the Joseph-Holder combination could be the differentiator between their team’s title aspirations and a defeat in either of the next two matches.

After the Antigua-Barbados firm had done its bit, Shimon Hetmyer, the captain, made a 42-ball 52 and took control of the chase along with Tevin Imlach, who made 54. Hetmyer’s positive attitude against the spinners after the opening pair of Gidron Pope and Imlach and put on 45 in 6.2 overs did not allow Pakistan to bounce back.

“I was just trying to play my natural game, the way I play back home in the Caribbean and right through,” said Hetmyer of his knock. “I played my shots and I guess it came off for me.”

The semi-final qualification has become significant for West Indies, which has not won anything big after lifting the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 trophy.

“I think probably coming into the tournament, a lot of people thought that because we lost the three games against Bangladesh (in a bilateral series) here we wouldn’t really get this far,” pointed out Hetmyer when asked if he thought his team had punched above its weight. “The guys got accustomed to the conditions, kept believing in their abilities and adapted as fast they could, very fast I should say.”

Hetmyer felt that West Indies “got a little bit too relaxed after taking first five wickets” against Pakistan, and Masood capitalised on it by hitting the best century of the tournament so far.

Dan Lawrence, Karim Janat, Nazmul Hossain Shanto, Rishabh Pant and Shamar Springer made their hundreds against non-Test-playing teams, Jack Burnham made one against Fiji and another against Zimbabwe, and South Africa’s Liam Smith hit one against Bangladesh.

But none of the teams have bowlers as fast as Holder and Joseph. Not that Masood made much against the two of them, but he played them out intelligently. “They were bowling well so we thought even scoring three-four runs in their overs would be okay,” said Masood. “Despite that we scored ten in one over (off Holder).”

Even when he was just trying to survive, Masood looked clean in his approach. Most of his defensive shots were from the middle of the bat, and except for one run-out chance and the one time he could have been stumped, he was pretty much in control.

“We lost early wickets so initially our plan was to play grounded strokes till the 30th over,” said Masood, who shared a 164-run stand with Salman Fayyaz – the highest sixth-wicket partnership in the history of youth one-dayers. “I was sure that I would be able to take the bowlers on in the slog overs.”

Coached by Zahur Ahmed Bhatti at Galaxy Cricket Club in Rawalpindi, Masood, who follows Kamran Akmal’s batting and Brad Haddin’s wicketkeeping, stayed true to his intent as he hit seven fours and two sixes towards the end of his innings, taking his strike rate from 73.17 to 99.12 before being caught behind in the last over trying to scoop a full toss.

Part of the team that lost the 2014 quarter-final to Australia Under-19, Hetmyer said he was happy to get the opposite experience: “I know how it feels to lose in a quarterfinal and now I can say how it feels like to win a quarterfinal.”

On another day, Masood and Holder could have been at opposite ends of the same result. But that’s hardly the point. As is always the case at the Under-19s, whether they go on to become long-term rivals at the highest level or not is of much more interest.