By R Kaushik in Mirpur
Bravo and Sammy provide batting blast and bowlers then ensure 84-run victory with Pakistan bowled out for 82
This was a game the West Indies had no business winning, fair and simple. Confronted with Pakistan in the final Super 10 league match of the ICC World Twenty20 2014 with the winner going through to a semi-final against Sri Lanka and the loser going home, the defending champion seemed to have shot itself in the foot after three-fourths of its batting stint.
Darren Sammy had stressed the importance of rotation of strike against Pakistan’s spinners, but his batsmen didn’t seem to have heeded the skipper. Sammy had done his side a wonderful turn by winning a crucial toss, but the West Indies looked to have frittered the advantage away, limping to 84 for 5 after 15 overs with Saeed Ajmal having one over and Umar Gul a potential three.
In the stands, the neutrals were hoping for around 125 for the West Indies to make a match of it, like Sri Lanka had done defending 119 against New Zealand in Chittagong the previous night. Instead, they got 166 for 6 in a breathtaking display of monstrous hitting through Dwayne Bravo and Sammy himself as Pakistan wilted under the weight of the sustained onslaught.
The last five overs produced an astonishing 82, the last three alone 59, and by the time the teams went in for the break, the momentum had clearly shifted towards the West Indies. In complete shock after the unexpected shellacking that came out of nowhere, Pakistan then crumbled to 13 for 4 midway through the final over of the Power Play, crippling blows that it never recovered from as it was bowled out for 82 – coincidentally, the exact number of runs the West Indies amassed in its last five overs.
This must-win game for both sides didn’t, not unexpectedly, throw up a classic, but for sheer drama and the explosiveness of the West Indies batting, it will be hard to match. The commanding 84-run win, which didn’t appear so much as a distant possibility for 75% of West Indies' batting foray, set up a rematch of the last ICC World T20 final against Sri Lanka in the first semi-final on Thursday. India will take on South Africa in Friday’s second semi-final clash.
There simply was no indication of the carnage to follow for much of the West Indies innings, strangely laborious for a team replete with the freest spirits in the world. Pakistan started strongly through Mohammad Hafeez and Sohail Tanvir; Hafeez drew first blood by drawing Chris Gayle out for a regulation stumping and Smith, tied down completely, followed Tanvir to Kamran Akmal, West Indies rocked at 22 for 2 in the fourth over.
Lendl Simmons tried to lend some impetus by taking on Zulfiqar Babar, but between boundaries, he and Marlon Samuels failed to work the gaps. The two added 39 for the third wicket in 38 deliveries, but 20 of those came through boundaries in just four balls. Consequently, Pakistan could afford to tighten the screws, especially with the West Indies also losing wickets in a desperate but unsuccessful bid to up the rate of scoring.
Simmons and Samuels fell in the same Shahid Afridi over and Denesh Ramdin couldn’t last long either at No. 6, bringing Sammy in to join Bravo. It was this pair that had turbo-charged the West Indies over the line against Australia on March 28. This time around, the devastation was more severe under greater pressure, sixes and fours cascading off their willows with stunning ease.
Sammy warmed up for the final flourish with a look-see at Babar, then Ajmal, but it was Bravo who opened the floodgates, hammering Gul for two sixes and a four in the 18th over which yielded 21. The first of those sixes was a monster drive over long-on, the second an even more astonishing pull over wide midwicket. Gul, T20I cricket’s second most prolific wicket-taker and with a career economy rate of 7.10, couldn’t wait for the over to end.
If the 18th over was disastrous for Pakistan, No. 19 was catastrophic. Ajmal, the leading T20I wicket taker who has gone for only 6.34 an over in 63 games, had conceded 17 in his first three overs, including an under-edged four. His next six deliveries disappeared for 24 – two gigantic sixes from Bravo over and behind square, one from Sammy that flew into the night sky over long-on. The sheer value of the runs was enormous, but to see the world’s most successful bowler look as despondent as he did would have done nothing for Pakistan’s morale.
Bravo was run out off the first ball of the last over after a whirlwind stand of 71 in 32, making 33 from his last 10 as against 13 from his first 16, but Sammy wasn’t done yet. His previous five T20I scores read 34*, 14*, 11, 15* and 30*. He chose the perfect time for his highest score in this format, 42* in just 20 with five fours and two sixes; in his last six hits, he has made 146 for once dismissed at a strike rate of 243.33, with 16 fours and nine sixes. Talk of Captain Fantastic.
The mountain of runs was intimidating alright, but there still was a job to be done. West Indies wasn't leaving anything to chance. Krishmar Santokie got the innings off to a dream start, trapping Ahmed Shehzad, the centurion in Pakistan’s last match, off the first ball with a wicked inswinger. It was to set off an incredible chain of events with the scoreboard going nowhere, except in the wickets column.
Pakistan was tentative, uncertain, the batsmen's minds still reeling from the Bravo-Sammy staccato burst. The feet were tied down by weights, the bat a heavy object unlike the extension of the arms it had been for the two West Indies international captains. Samuel Badree made capital of the confusion, running through his overs quickly and running rings around the batsmen.
Kamran Akmal holed out to mid-off, his younger brother Umar was stumped playing for the legbreak and Shoaib Malik gave his hand away too early, allowing Badree to fire the ball in for another stumping for Ramdin. At 13 for 4 in the sixth over, Pakistan’s proud record of four successive semi-final appearances was up in the air, the top order leaving the middle and lower orders with too much to do.
Hafeez best summed up Pakistan’s travails, spending 32 painstaking, boundary-less balls for 19. The first boundary didn’t come until 6.4 overs, and a few biffs towards the end didn’t do more than reduce the margin of defeat which, in any event, was massive. West Indies fielded like tigers, Gayle leading the way with diving stops in the infield and Santokie fittingly rounding off the victory with a catch in the deep by Simmons.
The celebrations weren’t as outrageous as after the six-wicket win over Australia, but this West Indies show, it is far from over. This is one game Pakistan wouldn’t like to remember ever. As for the West Indies, the defending champion is well and truly here, make no mistake.