A whirlwind half-century

S. DINAKAR

THE run-up to its second Pool game, an inconsequential match against Holland, was anything but smooth for Pakistan. In fact, it was a troubled phase.

To start with there were whispers that the Anti Corruption Unit (ACU) of the ICC had asked for the tapes of Pakistan's game against host Sri Lanka, the inaugural match of the ICC Champions Trophy.

Shahid Afridi, who cracked 55 off 18 deliveries, hoists Adeel Raja for a six.-N. BALAJI

To add further grist to the mill, coach Mudassar Nazar was summoned midway through the tournament to Pakistan by the country's cricket board that was distinctly unhappy with Pakistan's spiritless display against Sri Lanka.

Mudassar, not pleased with the treatment meted out to him, left for home and soon came the news that the ACU had indeed wanted to look at certain incidents from that 'controversial' match such as the run-out of Yousuf Youhana.

Interestingly, the ICC also clarified that the ACU would review all the matches in the tournament as part of its protocol. Pakistan could well have done without all this.

Earlier Afridi had also been successful with the ball, picking up three wickets. Here he has trapped Tim de Leede leg before.-N. BALAJI

The defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka meant Pakistan was for all practical purposes out of the tournament. However, it was due to play an important Test series against Australia, the first of the matches to be played in Colombo during the first week of October.

The game against Holland would serve as no more than a practice match for Waqar Younis and his men. A match where they could get back on the winning track, though this was always to be expected against Holland. After the demoralising defeat against Lanka, even a minor victory would contribute in a small way to Pakistan again finding its feet.

In the event, Pakistan crushed Holland by nine wickets, 33.4 overs still remaining in the contest. And Shahid Afridi, struck the second quickest half century ever in ODIs, off just 18 deliveries.

Holland electing to bat made 136, but displayed a desire to fight it out, with last man Adeel Raja being bowled only off the final ball of the 50th over.

The Dutchmen, rocked early by a world class pace pair, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar, struggled throughout the innings, and only the experienced players in the side Tim de Leede and captain Roland Lefebvre offered a measure of resistance.

Reinout Scholte is stumped by Rashid Latif off Shoaib Malik.-N. BALAJI

Waqar did bowl quite superbly, while Afridi sent down a couple of useful googlies. The technical inefficiency of the Dutch cricketers to cope with a higher quality of bowling was pronounced and it was a matter of surviving in the middle, not increasing the rate of scoring.

Shoaib, to the delight of a section of the crowd comprising Pakistan supporters, produced a couple of overs of searing speed, but appeared to get bored with the proceedings and soon operated well within himself.

When the Pakistanis began the chase, Imran Nazir, who had replaced Yousuf Youhana in the side, made a cracking 59, reaching his half century in only 36 balls, his square-cuts fetching him a big percentage of those runs. At the other end, Saeed Anwar played the part of a senior batsman to perfection, unselfishly giving Nazir a majority of the strike, being content with the singles. Had he desired, Anwar could have so easily picked up the easy runs, but he realised soon that a sizable knock would mean more to Nazir, who has been in and out of the Pakistan side.

The openers had put on 85 for the first wicket, when Nazir departed, miscuing a stroke off friendly seamer Fieko Kloppenburg. Then came Afridi's blinding onslaught. The match was over in a hurry.

For the Dutchmen, who rarely get the chance to compete in the big league, the Champions Trophy was an educational experience. They bowled and fielded to the best of their ability against Sri Lanka and batted the full 50 overs against Pakistan. These are the little gains for this happy bunch of cricketers and they can build on them.

The scores:

Holland: Feiko Kloppenburg (run out) 7; Daan Van Bunge c Misbah-ul-Haq b Akhtar 1; Bas Zuiderent c Younis Khan b Waqar 7; Tim de Leede lbw b Afridi 24; Henk-Jan Mol b Waqar 0; Luuk Van Troost c Latif b Afridi 16; Reinout Scholte st. Latif b Malik 11; Jacob Esmeijer lbw b Afridi 0; Roland Lefebvre (not out) 32; Edgar Schiferli b Sami 0; Adeel Raja b Razzaq 5. Extras (lb-21, w-12) 33. Total (in 50 overs) 136.

Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-15, 3-23, 4-23, 5-78, 6-84, 7-84, 8-112, 9-113.

Pakistan bowling: Waqar 7-3-14-2, Akhtar 8-3-14-1, Sami 10-1-18-1, Afridi 10-3-18-3, Razzaq 7-0-25-1, Malik 8-1-26-1.

Pakistan: Imran Nazir c Zuiderent b Kloppenburg 59; Saeed Anwar (not out) 28; Shahid Afridi (not out) 55. Extras 0. Total (for one wkt. in 16.2 overs) 142.

Fall of wicket: 85.

Holland bowling: Schiferli 4-0-37-0, Lefebvre 4-0-14-0, De Leede 2-0-19-0, Kloppenburg 2-0-23-1, Raja 2.2-0-31-0, Esmeijer 2-0-18-0.

Knocking the cover off the ball

AS Imran Nazir was cutting loose against the unthreatening Dutch attack, it appeared Shahid Afridi was going to miss out on a wonderful opportunity to pick up the Man of the Match award. He had bagged three wickets earlier in the day, but then he was not getting a chance to bat!

When the rampaging Nazir was dismissed, Pakistan required just 52 more runs to win, and Afridi would now have to rattle up a quick-fire knock to add up to his three-wicket haul. He did more than that.

Afridi's knock at the SSC ground will be remembered for a long time for the ease with which he cleared the ropes. The quality of the attack may have been less than ordinary, still it takes some doing to notch up 55 in just 18 balls!

Yet, he failed to equal Sanath Jayasuriya's record of the quickest half century, by just one ball. History could so easily have been made at the SSC that Saturday.

It was a wonderful exhibition of clean hitting, with the Pakistani all-rounder striking as many as six sixes. There was no slogging involved here, with Afridi using his feet to get to the pitch of the delivery against the spinners and then striking the ball effortlessly.

Poor Adeel Raja, the off-spinner, did not quite know what hit him. Afridi, his eyes lighting up at the prospect of facing some stingless spin, went down on his knees to strike the first delivery of Raja's second over mid-wicket for a huge six. The little boys in the hill beyond the stands were delighted at the prospect of fetching the ball back. It provided them with a precious chance of being involved in the action.

This was followed by another telling blow, the ball clearing long-off this time. Much to the relief of Raja, no runs accrued off the third delivery, but the fourth and fifth were sent soaring over the fence, straighter than squarer. And, in hindsight the failure to score off the final delivery of this eventful over cost Afridi the record. Afridi went on to hit two more sixes, and his final big blow over long on, in the hapless Raja's third over, enabled him to jump from 49 to 55. However, it was one ball too late.