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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Watch Pakistan v West Indies, World Cup 2011, Quarter-Final

Form book no guide in crunch contest


March 22, 2011

Match Facts

March 23, Mirpur
Start time 1430 hours (0830 GMT)


Shoaib Akhtar in action during Pakistan's fielding practice, Mirpur, March 22, 2011
The end of the line for the Rawalpindi Express? Shoaib Akhtar's international career could finish in Mirpur on Wednesday

The Big Picture

The last time West Indies were in Dhaka, they couldn't have been in more of a rush to get away - in every sense. First there was their on-field performance, as clinical as anything ever witnessed in a World Cup encounter, as a potentially awkward tussle with Bangladesh was done and dusted in barely 30 overs of one-sided action.

Then, however, came the darker aspect of the day's events. As the West Indies team bus pulled out of the Shere Bangla stadium, it was pelted with rocks by an irate section of the Bangladeshi support - in the mistaken belief, it was later reported, that their own defeated countrymen were on board. Chris Gayle's alarmed tweet buzzed around the world in minutes, and though the team was later garlanded with flowers by an apologetic supporters' group, the lack of amusement was tangible. "Is it ok for me to say thank god I left bangladesh???!!!" added Sulieman Benn once the team had departed for India.

But now they are back, amid drum-tight security, and while the venue may not be to their liking, the opportunity could hardly be more alluring. Of all the teams in a tricky Group B, arguably no-one had a smoother on-field run to the quarter-finals than West Indies. Unlike England, whose struggles against the lesser teams turned every one of their subsequent games into nailbiters, the Windies took the polar opposite approach. They won the games in which they were favourites with such ease - with only the Irish coming close to giving them a scare in a 44-run defeat - that back-to-back defeats against England and India couldn't rattle their rock-solid Net Run Rate.

As a consequence they may start as underdogs in the knock-outs, but West Indies have landed the opponents that most suit their hot-and-cold style. Pakistan surpassed expectations to finish top of Group A, and in doing so they bookended the single most remarkable statistic in World Cup history - Australia's 34-match unbeaten run that began in the wake of a Moin Khan-inspired 10-run defeat at Headingley in 1999, and came to an end at the hands of Umar Akmal in Colombo on Saturday. But as their remarkable defeat against the apparent weaklings of New Zealand demonstrated, there's never any point in predicting predictability from Pakistan.

The other three quarter-finals involve clear favourites, and it would be a shock if any of India, South Africa and Sri Lanka failed to advance to the semis. This one, however, is anyone's game. On form, Pakistan should shade it, and a potential semi-final date with India in Mohali will ensure their resolve is at its sharpest. But as West Indies showed on their last trip to Mirpur, when they get on a roll they have players who can prove unstoppable.

Form guide

(completed matches, most recent first)

Pakistan WWLWW
West Indies LLWWW

Watch out for...

In their Chennai defeat against England, West Indies threw punch after punch to leave their opponents weak at the knees, but they lacked the subtlety in between whiles to make their position count. Nevertheless, the star of their show was undoubtedly the 22-year-old Andre Russell, whose performance with bat and ball could and should have been the decisive factor. His energetic seamers claimed career-best figures of 4 for 49, and he followed that up with a rough-diamond 49 from 46 balls. In a contest that could be decided by individual brilliance, he has two strings with which to make his bow.

Pakistan have long cultivated a reputation as mercurial performers, but scarcely a match goes by these days without a command performance from Umar Gul. He's picked off 13 wickets in his six outings in this World Cup, including nine in the past three games, in which time he has been promoted to new-ball status as well. His effortless variations provide a threat at any stage of an innings, but never more so than at the death when his pinpoint yorkers can prove unhittable. With Chris Gayle at the top of West Indies' order, and Kieron Pollard lurking at the bottom, his ten overs could prove instrumental in deciding the course of the match.

Team news


Chris Gayle and Kemar Roach are expected to slot straight back into the team after missing the India fixture, in place of Kirk Edwards and Ravi Rampaul, who will count himself unlucky to miss out after picking up figures of 5 for 51 in that match. There could also be a recall for the veteran Shiv Chanderpaul, who was dropped after a tally of 70 runs in four matches at the start of the tournament, but whose experience in such a crunch fixture could be invaluable. Ramnaresh Sarwan is the likeliest man to miss out, although Devon Thomas could conceivably hand the keeping duties to Darren Bravo.

West Indies (possible) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Devon Smith, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Darren Sammy (capt.), 7 Devon Thomas (wk), 8 Andre Russell, 9 Sulieman Benn, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Devendra Bishoo.

Chanderpaul's return would mean four left-handers in West Indies' top five, and so the offspin of Saeed Ajmal is being seriously considered in place of the effective but unassuming left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman. Shoaib Akhtar, with his retirement imminent, will hope to earn a recall in place of Wahab Riaz, who was expensive against Australia, but the variation offered by his left-arm line is not an asset that Shahid Afridi would wish to dispense with in a hurry.

Pakistan (possible) 1 Kamran Akmal (wk), 2 Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Asad Shafiq, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Shahid Afridi (capt), 8 Abdul Razzaq, 9 Saeed Ajmal, 10 Umar Gul, 11 Wahab Riaz.

Pitch and conditions

Darren Sammy reckons the Dhaka wicket looks like "a cricket pitch", which is just as well really. Still, Bangladesh managed to make it look like a minefield on West Indies' last visit to the venue, as Sammy, Roach and Benn routed their opponents for 58 in 18.5 overs. There is some grass on the surface, but it ought to be full of runs, as Virender Sehwag demonstrated during his 175 in the opening match of the tournament. The weather is set to be humid, with some prospect of dew in the second innings.

Stats and trivia

  • West Indies have won 64 of their 114 ODIs against Pakistan, but just two of the past 13 completed matches, dating back to January 2005.

  • Shahid Afridi's highest score in four World Cup campaigns is 37 against Zimbabwe in June 1999. However, he has claimed 17 of his 24 wickets in the current tournament.

  • West Indies are bidding to reach their fourth World Cup semi-final, and their first since 1996. Pakistan reached the semis in five of the first seven tournaments, but haven't got that far since losing the final in 1999.

Quotes

"This is a ground where we executed our plans perfectly so it's good to be back here. We feel loved by the people and we are ready for tomorrow."
Darren Sammy dispels the notion that the stone-throwing incident has affected West Indies' attitude to Bangladesh

"It was a great win. We really worked hard before this tournament and I don't think in my 14-year career we've ever worked as hard. Definitely, the expectation is greater now. We are feeling more confident."
Shahid Afridi reflects on the achievement of beating Australia in Colombo.

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