Pakistan vs West Indies (Champions Trophy)

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Misfiring Pakistan stumble past WICB XI

Match 2: Group A – Johannesburg. Pakistan 134/5 (30.3 overs) Umar Akmal 41 not out, Tonge 4/25 beat West Indies 133 all out (34.3 overs) Miller 51, Mohammad Aamer 3/25, Umar Gul 3/28 by five wickets

Umar-AkmalDespite at one point having their opponents in disarray at 47/7, Pakistan were made to work hard before eventually beating a second string West Indian side by five wickets on a bowler friendly pitch at the Wanderers yesterday in Group A of the ICC Champions Trophy. Chasing only 134 to win, Pakistan stumbled to 76/5 after an inspired spell by Gavin Tonge who took 4/25 – his first ODI wickets, before the precociously talented teenager Umar Akmal (41 not out) and acting captain Shahid Afridi (17 not out) steered the Pakistanis home.

The strife torn West Indies team, led by journeyman Floyd Reifer (what a fantastic surname!), showed a lot of spirit first in adding 86 runs for the last three wickets and then producing a lively performance in the field to at least make things difficult for Pakistan. Along with Tonge, Nikita Miller (51), who scored his first ODI fifty and Darren Sammy (25), made valuable contributions. The rest of the side disappointed with the bat with only Devon Smith (18) also getting into double figures, as 17 year old prodigy Mohammad Aamer (3/24) and Umar Gul (3/28) blew the West Indian top order away. Miller and Sammy led a fight back with a 38 run partnership before Sammy was bamboozled by Saeed Ajmal (2/16). Miller then accelerated to his 50 from 51 balls hitting six fours and one six before being last man out to Afridi (1/39).

The brittleness that has been apparent in Pakistan’s batting this year returned to haunt them as they chased their unthreatening target. Tonge playing in only his third ODI struck with his first ball to bowl Imran Nazir (5) before inducing edges from Kamran Akmal (5), Shoaib Malik (23) and Mohammad Yousuf (23) to wicket keeper Chadwick Walton thus finishing his ten overs with an excellent haul of 4/25. When David Bernard also found an edge from Misbah-ul-Haq (6) to Walton, Pakistan were struggling at 76/5, still requiring 58 to win.

Luckily for them man of the match recipient Umar Akmal has an old head on young shoulders and together with Afridi led Pakistan to their target without further loss with just under 20 overs to spare. Pakistan know though that they will have to play much better against India and Australia if they are to progress from Group A.

The spirited fightback by the West Indies should not hide the fact that they were outclassed and can also expect heavy defeats to follow against the Indians and the ruthless Australians. The blame is of course self inflicted due to the ongoing war between the West Indies Cricket Board (is there a less competent governing body in the whole of competitive sport?) and the players, which has led to the West Indies side being effectively a second or third XI. Chris Gayle and his men are not entirely blameless but the heavy handedness and attitude of the WICB has been outrageous. The ICC must be furious that this tournament, which it has billed as a competition of the eight best ODI sides in the World has been made a mockery of by an intransigent WICB. The situation must be sorted out before West Indies tour Australia otherwise we could see three two or three day Tests.

The great shame is that after a number of years in the doldrums things looked to be improving for the West Indies. A Test series draw away to New Zealand was followed by a Test series victory at home to England and then at the World T20 in June, West Indies reached the semi finals before running into a Dilshan inspired Sri Lanka team. For cricket fans that grew up with Richards, Holding, Marshall and Greenidge et al it was good to see signs of recovery in Caribbean cricket. What the future holds now waits to be seen.

Today’s match sees hosts South Africa battling to stay in its own tournament against dark horses New Zealand. Coming less than 48 hours after the crushing defeat in the competition’s opening match to Sri Lanka, Graeme Smith has a tough challenge to pick his team up off the floor. The Kiwis will prove tough opposition as they are a good ODI side and unlike the undercooked Proteas are coming off a competitive tour of Sri Lanka. Despite this I take South Africa to return to winning ways.

Match 2: Group A – Johannesburg. Pakistan 134/5 (30.3 overs) Umar Akmal 41 not out, Tonge 4/25 beat West Indies 133 all out (34.3 overs) Miller 51, Mohammad Aamer 3/25, Umar Gul 3/28 by five wickets

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