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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

World Cup 2011 - Windies-Pak in Quarter-finals

The first Quarter-final gets underway in Mirpur on Wednesday between two teams that are not too dissimilar. The West Indies have, to take Greg Chappell's words few years ago, forgotten how to win. Pakistan is, the least to say, one team whose players themselves will not know how they will play on the day of the match (no, I am not hinting any other thoughts here). Castrol Index shows both of them to be very close - in fact, Windies lead the Pakistan team 150-149.

The Paks have beaten the World Champions in their last match and that must have given them a lot of confidence but that is not assuring anything for this team. Their bowlers have mostly won the match by restricting the targets that their not-so-sure batsmen have to chase. Umar Gul, Shahid Afridi have been the stars while the others have been more steady than spectacular. Hafeez, in particular, was miserly in the match against Australia. On the Mirpur pitch, will he be so effective against the Windies who admittedly played the Indian spinners better than most expected?

The batting of Pakistan has revolved mainly around Umar Akmal so far. The youngster is so talented that he will be able to walk in to any team's playing eleven but one is not so sure about where his priorities lie, if stories are to be believed. He shares a strong bond with his elder brother and that is where the rumor-mills start their tales about him feigning injuries to save Kamran's place in the squad. Misbah and Younis have played their part but failure to hit the boundaries (check their rotation rate) will cost the team critical runs in the final overs.

West Indies have to thank Devon Smith for his contributions so far and expect him to shore up the batting with the returning Chris Gayle. If Gayle can put his head together and stay for a decent period at the wicket, he can take the match away from the opposition. His is the key wicket for Pakistan for the dependency on him is so high that Windies have lost their way after his dismissals. Bravo has blown hot and cold while Sarwan has been disappointing. Only if these players can put up a score against Pakistan that is challenging to chase, the bowlers can probably play on the pressure created on the minds of Pakistan batsmen.

Kemar Roach is one bowler who will be expected to rip through the top-order of Pakistan with his sheer pace. Benn has opened the bowling but has not been so effective. Bishoo was very impressive in his stint against the Indians - he will play and I feel that he will do well once again taking wickets by the handful. Rampaul will play, thanks to his fifer against the Indians - who will be dropped to accommodate remains to be seen since Russell had played well in earlier games. It is a good sign for the Windies that their bowlers have slowly started to show signs of taking wickets.

An even game is what one might be tempted to call. But, Windies have not won enough against major test-playing nations in recent times. Will this be the match that will stop the bad streak? Will Pakistan self-destruct as they can? Interesting match in store tomorrow but I will support the Windies to create an upset here!
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