THE JOKE WAS ON Pakistan yesterday.
And now the West Indies are laughing all the way to the semi-finals of the ICC’s T20 World Cup.
It was an April Fool’s Day for West Indian fans to remember, as the regional side crushed Pakistan by 84 runs yesterday at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium, to take another step towards defending their title.
The margin of victory was the largest ever by the West Indies in a T20 international match, and booked a final four showdown against Sri Lanka, whom they defeated in the 2012 finals, in tomorrow’s first semi-final game.
Thanks mainly to the efforts of Dwayne Bravo and captain Darren Sammy, who pummeled Pakistan’s bowling attack for 82 runs off the final five overs, the Windies recovered from 81 for five in the 15th over to post a formidable 166-6 from their 20 overs.
Bravo smashed 46 from just 26 balls, inclusive of four sixes and two fours, while Sammy finished unbeaten on 42, which contained five boundaries and two sixes off only 20 balls.
Spinners Samuel Badree (3-10) and Sunil Narine (3-16) then wrecked Pakistan’s middle order, as they crumbled to be all out for 82 in 17.5 overs.
“We never panicked because we knew big-hitters are our strong point,” Bravo, who was named Man of the Match, said. “This is the best I’ve been batting for a long time and I’m really enjoying it at the moment.”
A match billed as a virtual quarter-final, with India already finishing at the top of Group 2 with four wins, became woefully one-sided as Pakistan failed to make the semi-finals at the World Twenty20 for the first time in five editions.
The turnaround came after an off-colour display at the top of the order with big-hitting openers Chris Gayle and Dwayne Smith being dismissed early.
Gayle stretched out to off-spinner Mohammad Hafeez and was stumped easily by wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal for five, while Smith (8) edged Sohail Tanvir behind for wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal to take a simple catch.
The wickets of Lendl Simmons and Marlon Samuels followed soon after as the Windies wobbled to 81 for 5, only for Bravo and Sammy to engineer a dramatic recovery.
The timing of the assault by the pair was a knockout blow to Pakistan. You could tell by the way Sammy pumped his fists after pounding Saeed Ajmal for a straight six in the 19th over. It wasn’t arrogance or bravado. It was adrenaline.
Bravo’s burst included two sixes and a four off Umar Gul, who went for 21 runs in the 18th over. Bravo and Sammy also took 24 off spinner Saeed Ajmal, who was clobbered for three sixes and a four in one over.
“We did not bat well in the first six overs and that proved decisive,” Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez said.
“They bowled well, but I thought our shot selection was not good. We’re sorry for letting Pakistan fans down.”
Some of that adrenaline was still coursing through Krishmar Santokie’s blood when he pinged Ahmed Shehzad’s front toe, plumb in front of middle stump with an inswinging yorker, with the first ball of Pakistan’s innings.
Shehzad, an unbeaten centurion in his previous game, was out for a duck. Pakistan never recovered. They were yet to take a run off the bat when Kamran Akmal faced up to Samuel Badree for the start of the second over, and two more dot balls provoked a scoop straight into wide mid-off’s hands where Bravo took an easy catch, complete with a little Trini wine and all.
Badree, bowling with the new ball, took wickets as the batsmen attacked him in a desperate bid to get the scoreboard ticking. Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik were both stumped off Badree, with wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin claiming two more off Narine.
Pakistan was 13-4 in the sixth over at the fall of Malik’s wicket and the West Indies only increased the pressure with some tight fielding. (RB/PR)