One-sided contest

West Indies scored 112 and Pakistan's aggressive openers Mohammad Hafeez and Kamran Akmal made a mockery of the target and whittled it down in 20.5 overs as Shahid Afridi's men truly lived up to their ‘dark horse' billing. Over to K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

Matches are not won at the toss. Darren Sammy understood this truism against Pakistan in the ICC World Cup quarterfinal in Dhaka's Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium on a warm Wednesday night.

The West Indies capitulated and a dominant Pakistan cruised to a ten-wicket victory. West Indies scored 112 and Pakistan's aggressive openers Mohammad Hafeez and Kamran Akmal made a mockery of the target and whittled it down in 20.5 overs as Shahid Afridi's men truly lived up to their ‘dark horse' billing. Sammy had no inkling of a night of despair when luck favoured him in the afternoon. After calling correctly while the coin spun in the air, Sammy, with the glee of a child in a candy store, flexed his arms in delight and promptly opted to bat.

The West Indies skipper would have gradually realised that the best laid plans can go haywire. Little would he have fathomed the imminent return of alarm bells in the West Indies dressing room as openers Devon Smith and Chris Gayle strode to the crease.

Gayle, who played the match after recovering from an abdominal strain, swatted two fours before adrenaline undid his stint as seamer Umar Gul exulted. Afridi also employed Mohammad Hafeez to counter the clutch of southpaws and the off-spinner ruffled pads while Smith and Darren Bravo displayed jelly feet.

The senior combine of Ramnaresh Sarwan (24) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (44 not out) then strung a laborious 42-run fourth-wicket partnership spread over 111 deliveries and the West Indies was caught up in a battle for survival. Afridi (four for 30), the highest wicket-taker in the tournament so far, also stepped in with his medley of leg-breaks and the fast straighter one and Sarwan, Kieron Pollard and Devon Thomas were gone in a flash.

Off-spinner Saeed Ajmal also caught the batsmen on the wrong foot and a stodgy Chanderpaul was left stranded without partners. “The pitch did not get anyone out. It was just a combination of poor batsmanship and very low confidence,” the West Indies coach Ottis Gibson said and ominously added: “Some serious decisions need to be taken.”

Soon it was time for fireworks to erupt across the distant Pakistani skies while Akmal (47 not out, 60b, 7x4) and Hafeez (61 not out, 64b, 10x4) carted the West Indian bowlers all over the park. Hafeez drove with finesse and Akmal was brutal to the half-volleys gifted by a wilting attack and the crowd, that had earlier sulked when the West Indies bundled out Bangladesh for 58 in the past, found relief and joy in Pakistan's triumph.

“We — Pakistan and Bangladesh — are friends and we are thankful to the crowd for the support. I believe there was no load-shedding back home so that people could see this match and I thank their prayers,” said Pakistan coach Waqar Younis. Ominously for other teams, Pakistan's varied cogs seemed to be settling down into a winning rhythm and Afridi's men continued their journey to exorcise the ghosts of recent controversies that had often prevented the team from expressing its full potential.

The West Indies meanwhile will indulge in some soul-searching. “During my time they ruled the world,” said Younis on a night when his team strummed the high notes.

THE SCORES

First quarterfinal, Mirpur, March 23. Pakistan won by 10 wickets.

West Indies: D. Smith lbw b Hafeez 7; C. Gayle c Afridi b Gul 8; R. Sarwan c U. Akmal b Afridi 24; D. Bravo lbw b Hafeez 0; S. Chanderpaul (not out) 44; K. Pollard c K. Akmal b Afridi 1; D. Thomas lbw b Afridi 0; D. Sammy lbw b Ajmal 1; D. Bishoo b Ajmal 0; K. Roach c Younis Khan b Razzaq 16; R. Rampaul b Afridi 0; Extras (lb-2, w-7, nb-2) 11; Total (in 43.3 overs) 112.

Fall of wickets: 1-14, 2-16, 3-16, 4-58, 5-69, 6-69, 7-71, 8-71, 9-111.

Pakistan bowling: Gul 7-1-13-1; Hafeez 10-3-16-2; Riaz 6-0-29-0; Afridi 9.3-1-30-4; Ajmal 8-1-18-2; Razzaq 3-1-4-1.

Pakistan: K. Akmal (not out) 47; M. Hafeez (not out) 61; Extras (lb-4, w-1) 5. Total (no wkt., in 20.5 overs) 113.

West Indies bowling: Roach 5.5-0-39-0; Rampaul 5-1-28-0; Bishoo 5-1-24-0; Sammy 5-1-18-0.