LONDON – West Indies gathered their wits in time to fend off a resurgent Pakistan and win a tense, low-scoring Champions Trophy match by two wickets at The Oval yesterday.
Despite posting a target of just 171, the Pakistanis took wickets when they desperately needed them to keep the outcome in the balance right until the death.
Even when West Indies lost their eighth wicket and needed six more runs, victory wasn’t certain until tailender Kemar Roach cut through the tension by hitting the winning runs to the point boundary off Junaid Khan.
Roach ran around the pitch in jubilation as West Indies joined India, winner over South Africa on Thursday, atop Group B.
West Indies finished on 172 for eight in 40.4 overs, after routing Pakistan for 170 in 48.
“It’s great to win the first match,” said Roach, who won the Man Of The Match award after returning the impressive figures of three for 28 in 10 overs. “The guys are relieved.”
Pakistan’s bowlers almost trumped West Indies’ on a flat pitch offering bounce and turn.
The target ought to have been a doddle for West Indies, but Mohammad Irfan, the 7-foot-2 fast bowler who turned 31 on Thursday, reduced the Caribbean side to 15-2, bouncing out the in-form Johnson Charles for nine and Darren Bravo for a duck.
Chris Gayle, the leading runscorer in Trophy history, and Marlon Samuels curbed their attacking instincts even though they shared 63 in 12 overs until Gayle lost his middle stump to Saeed Ajmal for the top score of 39 off 47 balls with four fours and a six.
West Indies still had the advantage, just needing a steady hand. But the menacing Wahab Riaz removed Ramnaresh Sarwan for one, and Samuels charged and missed Mohammad Hafeez to be stumped for 30 off 57 balls with the score on 94 for five.
Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo also inhibited their natural instincts to grind, and they seemed set to guide the side to victory.
Then Riaz induced an edge off Pollard for 30 which included three fours and a six off 58 balls; Ajmal trapped Dwayne Bravo leg before wicket for 19 to give Pakistan hope, and revive their boisterous fans in the crowd of 20 491.
Irfan came back to get Sunil Narine for 11 but Pakistan just didn’t quite have enough runs to defend in the end.
The win belonged to the West Indies’ stunted bowling attack. Only two specialist quicks, Roach and Ravi Rampaul, and spinner Narine were gambled on, and they delivered.
In warm but gloomy conditions that turned to drizzle in the interval, only captain Misbah-ul-Haq, with an unbeaten 96, and opener Nasir Jamshed, with 50, reached double figures.
Misbah, stranded four short of his maiden One-Day International (ODI) century, was lucky just to get off the mark. He should have been dismissed off successive balls in the ninth over, which would have left Pakistan in an even bigger hole at 17 for four.
Roach had knocked off the top order in taking three for five in 14 balls, and ought to have collected Misbah’s wicket, too.
First, Misbah was given not out lbw, West Indies appealed, and the review showed the ball would have hit the top of middle stump. But the umpire’s call stood. The next ball, Misbah was caught behind by Ramdin and given out, but the wicketkeeper dropped the ball and the batsman survived on an umpire’s review.
Misbah was annoyed Ramdin didn’t confess to the umpires that he dropped the ball.
“He should have told [the umpire what happened],” Misbah said. “I wouldn’t be happy if my wicketkeeper did that. If you know it’s not a catch, you shouldn’t claim it because it’s not in the spirit of the game.”
West Indies skipper Dwayne Bravo defended Ramdin, saying he genuinely thought he’d made the catch.
“He is a very honest player and history shows that we as a country don’t have any stigma of negativity around us,” Bravo said. “I don’t see anything wrong with it.”
Narine, the top-ranked bowler in ODIs, stymied Pakistan’s revival with three wickets for three runs in the space of 10 balls.
Misbah and Jamshed combined for 90 for the fourth wicket, and that triggered another collapse. From 105 for three, Pakistan lost their last seven wickets for 65 runs in 18.5 overs, with Narine finishing with three 34.
Irfan tried to help Misbah to his first century, sharing 32 for the last wicket. Misbah surpassed his previous highest ODI score, 93 not out against New Zealand in 2011, but missed a century again in his 118th match when Irfan fell for two.
Pakistan must beat South Africa on Monday to stay in Trophy contention.
“We just need to be a bit more responsible with our batting,” Misbah said. (AP)