It's a breeze for Windies

West Indies' Dwayne Smith (centre) celebrates with team-mates after dismissing Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq.-AP West Indies' Dwayne Smith (centre) celebrates with team-mates after dismissing Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq.

What was striking about West Indies' performance in the opener was the discipline showed by its bowlers and the intensity by its fielders, writes S. Ram Mahesh.

The context of the 2007 World Cup had been set by a spectacular opening ceremony. It had proved that the West Indies could exist because its constituent members could co-exist. All was in waiting for the first match. With the first ball, the pre-tournament build-up would mercifully cease. The day arrived, bright as you could wish for, with the slightest of breezes blowing from the built-from-scratch North Stand to the George Headley Stand.

Brian Lara and Inzamam-ul-Haq walked out for the toss; at another corner of the ground things were readied to honour the heroes of the World Cup winning squads of 1975 and 1979. The great men lined up along the boundary in front of the North Stand. Tony Cozier, the voice of the Caribbean, was master of ceremonies. A couple of the legends beckoned to Inzamam, who had just won the toss. The Pakistan captain walked over and paid his respects.

The Sabina Park track was moist like a fresh-baked cake. Umar Gul removed Chris Gayle, who earned the dubious distinction of being the first man to be dismissed in the 2007 World Cup. Gul should have had Ramnaresh Sarwan next ball, but Younis Khan put down the edge at second slip.

Sarwan rode his luck; he also played strokes of considerable skill. He thus set the platform for Marlon Samuels, who struggled initially, feeling for the ball in front of his leading pad and missing. But, he clouted Iftikhar for a succession of boundaries to kick-start the West Indies innings.

Samuels then turned his sights on Danish Kaneria: a hard hit straight was followed by delightful use of the feet to lever Kaneria into the second tier. Lara meanwhile had taken a long time to get off the mark; he opened out subsequently, advancing to Danish Kaneria to loft him, and hanging back to cut him.

Samuels and Lara added 91 for the fourth wicket. Then occurred a mini collapse as three wickets fell for 15 runs, prompting Lara to say, "Our batting did it in spurts. There's much to be talked about in the dressing room. Shiv (Chanderpaul) and me took up a lot of balls as well, but we are experienced and will set it right."

Dwayne Smith walked in at 183 for six, and proceeded to scatter the bowling. "When he went out, we were thinking maybe 225. But, scoring 30-odd runs in 14-15 balls is tremendous."

Smith struck three fours and two sixes in his 15-ball 32 as the West Indies finished with 241 for nine.

"Our bowlers did marvellously well," said Inzamam. Pity, his fielders didn't always back them up. They allowed runs to be pinched, balls through their feet, overthrows, the works. "Yes, our fielding was sloppy," admitted Inzamam, "but it wasn't for a lack of effort. We tried hard." The two most striking aspects of the Pakistan innings was the discipline showed by the West Indies bowlers and the intensity by its fielders. "I know I fielded my age," said Lara, "but the rest were outstanding."

Daren Powell and Jerome Taylor bowled excellent first spells and took three top-order wickets. Imran Nazir slapped Powell for six, edged him behind, and left the scene, all in a matter of moments. It's a pity that this gifted batsman hasn't evolved. Ian Chappell saw him at Sharjah many years ago, and thought he had it in him to succeed in various conditions — a rare quality for a Pakistan batsman. But, Nazir has barely broken from the periphery; he did himself no favours this match. Younis Khan made a typically blustery nine that was undone by impetuosity.

Corey Collymore bowled a spell of great control. Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam, fine batsmen both, took an inordinate number of balls for their runs. The bowling was tight, the fielding athletic, but couldn't they have increased the rate from three per over to four per over as Samuels did? "I thought if we had wickets in hand, the way the pitch was playing, seven or eight runs per over towards the end wouldn't be tough," explained Inzamam. "We just wanted to stay at the wicket, stretch the match into the final overs."

But, Inzamam and Yousuf allowed the asking rate to climb to six runs per over — it was less than five at the start of the innings — as early as the 21st over. Lara shrewdly kept his fast-medium bowlers on, lulling the batsmen into a pattern. Smith dismissed both Yousuf and Inzamam, and added Kamran Akmal's scalp to make it a profitable all-round day.

The new men barring Shoaib Malik couldn't cope with the mounting asking rate. Malik tried to rally the tail, hitting out as he did so. But, he was fast running out of partners. Eventually, he fell himself.

The West Indies fielding was out of the top drawer. Bravo took a leaping catch at point and a reflex catch off his own bowling. Everywhere, fours and twos were cut down to singles.

"I'm definitely concerned," said Inzamam. "Batting is our stronger suit, and we failed because of it. The bowlers did marvellously well to restrict them to 241. It was chaseable. But we lost those early three wickets. And the experienced middle-order needs to take responsibility."

THE SCORES

Group D: West Indies v Pakistan. West Indies won by 54 runs.

West Indies: C. Gayle c Akmal b Gul 2; S. Chanderpaul c Akmal b Iftikhar 19; R. Sarwan c Younis Khan b Iftikhar 49; M. Samuels c Malik b Hafeez 63; B. Lara c Akmal b Hafeez 37; D. Bravo c Naved b Iftikhar 16; D. Ramdin st. Akmal b Kaneria 1; D. Smith c Inzamam b Gul 32; J. Taylor (run out) 2; D. Powell (not out) 1; C. Collymore (not out) 8; Extras (lb-2, w-6, nb-3) 11. Total (nine wkts in 50 overs) 241.

Fall of wkts: 1-7, 2-64, 3-77, 4-168, 5-181, 6-183, 7-223, 8-228, 9-232.

Pakistan bowling: Gul 9-1-38-2; Naved 9-1-49-0; Iftikhar 10-3-44-3; Kaneria 9-2-45-1; Hafeez 9-0-39-2; Malik 4-0-24-0.

Pakistan: I. Nazir c Ramdin b Powell 6; M. Hafeez c Lara b Powell 11; Y. Khan c Ramdin b Taylor 9; M. Yousuf c Ramdin b Smith 37; Inzamam-ul-Haq lbw b Smith 36; S. Malik c Chanderpaul b Collymore 62; K. Akmal c Bravo b Smith 0; Naved-ul-Hasan b Bravo 11; Iftikhar Anjum c Lara b Bravo 11; U. Gul c & b Bravo 0; D. Kaneria (not out) 0; Extras (lb-2, w-2) 4. Total (in 47.2 overs) 187.

Fall of wkts: 1-6, 2-17, 3-39, 4-99, 5-116, 6-116, 7-144, 8-187, 9-187.

West Indies bowling: Powell 10-1-42-2; Taylor 10-1-38-1; Collymore 8.2-3-27-1; Smith 10-0-36-3; Bravo 9-0-42-3.