Colin E. H. Croft
West Indies has survived a rocky situation, after losing to Ireland, by beating Pakistan, and to be still very much in with a great shout of getting to that much desired CWC 2015 quarter-final spot.
Being somewhat facetious, QANTAS and EMIRATES A-380, B-747 or B-787 aircraft leave Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland daily, so WI could well have been packed, ready to leave the Antipodes by one such flight, by Monday, heading home, had they not won their 2nd game.
It is always easy to be a ‘Monday-morning quarter-back’, i.e., assessing happenings and situations after the facts, but important WI personnel, coaches and managers, with extensive cricketing experiences, on the ground at Nelson when WI played the Irish, must have recognized that that pitch could not have been conducive to real pace.
Why, then, select four faster bowlers? Could it have been that no-one assessed the opposition well? Or were WI “cock-sure” enough to take Ireland for granted, expecting an easy victory? Or was it that Marlon Samuels and Chris Gayle were supposed to spin Ireland out?
Therefore, even if left-arm orthodox spinner Suleiman Benn might have tweaked a back muscle, and was sidelined for Ireland, one wonders how it is that Nikita Miller, Sunil Narine’s replacement, was not selected. What is Miller doing there; sightseeing?
So this first win of the real tournament; Zimbabwe, India, South Africa and United Arab Emirates yet to come; was as needed as anyone trapped on a very high mountain, gasping for air. Luckily, the atmosphere changed, and WI heartily, gleefully, gulped down Pakistan’s very poor cricket.
Pakistan looked so bedraggled, unsure and cricket cold, even after winning the toss, in a game that they too needed to win, that it was not surprising that, firstly, they dropped so many relatively easy catches that WI almost applauded too. At least WI did use the gifts presented to get to 310-6.
Conversely, WI were determined not to go down without fighting fully to the death, with walking wounded Darren Sammy turning up as expected for duty, while Suleiman Benn was also included, even if Chris Gayle looked terribly out of sorts while slogging his way to just four strange runs.
Darren Bravo had a reprieve after being given out, caught at the wicket, when he did not actually hit the ball, winning a referral that relieved WI. Unfortunately, he is now very doubtful for the rest of the competition, after making a purposeful 49 no, before badly pulling his left hamstring.
Marlon Samuels too was in the wars, hit by a few returns from the outfield, before he also holed-out to long-off. By then, though, WI were well on their way to repairing Gayle’s early departure, with some really intelligent batting, making sure that they took all advantages allowed.
Lendl Simmons, so far WI’s real “go-to” batsman this competition, playing as well and as composed as for that century against Zimbabwe, combined well with compatriot Denesh Ramdin, the pair running so well, and playing some delightful shots, each eventually getting a half-century.
Darren Sammy did chip in well too with a boisterous thirty, but it was Andre Russell who really took the fire to a terribly immobile, disconsolate Pakistan, getting 42 in only thirteen deliveries, including three fours and four sixes, making sure that the recovery was almost complete.
Young WI captain Jason Holder must have hugged Russell, Sammy and the rest of his middle and lower order, when the innings closed at 310-6, as surely he knew that West Indies were in with a good chance of winning. Little did he expect the fireworks that were to come when WI fielded!
Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach had bowled so extremely poorly against Ireland, leaking more than eight runs per over each, that many, including me, were advocating that they should both be dropped and replaced with the two orthodox leg spinners, Suleiman Benn and Nikita Miller.
I am happy to report that I am very glad that I was wrong with that assessment, as it was Taylor, in his very first over, one that accounted for two Pakistani batsmen for just one run, who started the ball rolling for WI, in many more ways than that, on their way to winning this crucial game.
To paraphrase WI team manager, Sir Richie Richardson, ‘WI is peaking at the right time’. That peak must remain. After much preparation, WI against Pakistan seemed to be re-energized, perhaps also remembering that games versus especially SA and India still have to be completed.
Clive Lloyd had openly advocated that Russell is one WI cricketer whom he considers a natural, one who really should be always playing for WI, especially in ODI’s, but even in Tests. Against Pakistan, Russell, “Man of the Match,” duly repaid that confidence of his mentor/chief selector!
Russell, who had 3-33 from eight overs, a good spell, helped Taylor, who has an excellent 3-15 from seven blistering overs, to set Pakistan back enough that WI won by 150 runs.
Holder must be greatly relieved, so now, it’s on to bigger, hopefully better things, for WI has survived to fight on. Enjoy!
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