CASTRIES — West Indies and Pakistan tied the third One-Day International at the Beausejour Stadium today after the home side rallied from what looked like certain defeat in a thrilling final over.
West Indies scored 14 runs off the last over bowled by seamer Wahab Riaz to finish level with the visitors on 229 off 50 overs.
After 97 overs of play, Pakistan were clearly the better side on the day, and by some distance. Needing 39 off the last three then, with only two wickets in hand, West Indies managed to induce an almighty panic in the Pakistan ranks.
This included the first boundary hit off Saeed Ajmal — three came in one cluster now; a fielder failing to pick the ball in the deep, costing them three runs; poor field settings in the last over with 15 to defend against the last pair of Jason Holder and Kemar Roach; and then an easy run-out fluffed off the last ball to allow West Indies a tie.
West Indies celebrated as if they had won, and Pakistan were crestfallen, which was about right.
Pakistan will think of the erroneous call of a short run that went against them when Umar Akmal and Riaz were taking 52 off the last 4.2 overs. The two same men would now commit the final fatal mistakes.
Before that, though, it was Sunil Narine who turned the momentum. Ajmal had been all over West Indies with the wickets of Lendl Simmons, who scored 75, and Dwayne Bravo in his ninth over to turn 62 off 42 with six wickets in hand into 39 off 18 with just two wickets standing.
With nothing left to lose, Narine swung and he swung clean. The first ball went flat over long-off, inside-out no less. Ajmal fired the next ball in, and Narine drilled it to long-on, but Riaz there moved to his left as opposed to right where the ball was. The angry Ajmal slowed the next ball down, and drew a dot, but Narine came down the wicket to send him to the left of long-off. Ajmal came back with a quick off-break to peg Narine’s off stump back, and it was down to 24 off 12 for Holder and Roach.
Despite a flicked four past midwicket, Junaid did his job, giving away just nine in the 49th. The difference between Junaid and Riaz was the angle. Riaz bowled over the stumps but with the same field of mid-off up and long-on back. He began with two singles first up, but that mid-off remained a risky placement. As it turned out, Holder threaded – an incredible shot for a No. 11 – the third between mid-off and cover for four. More incredible acts were to follow.
Riaz changed his length, and drew a dot with a short ball to make it nine required off the last two, but bowled length on the penultimate ball. Holder smoked it clean over extra cover. Now Pakistan were panicking. A big conference resulted, but the field didn’t change. Riaz bowled short, which more or less took the field down the ground out of the equation. Holder swung, got a thick edge, which flew to third man who was aptly stationed fine. Junaid fielded well and sent in a decent throw on a decent bounce but just to the right of the keeper.
Holder, who made 19 in 9 balls to go with his 2 for 40, was gone by yards had Akmal collected it cleanly. He didn’t. Holder made it. He over-ran so far West Indies couldn’t even try a possible overthrow. The ball, though, had gone straight to straight midwicket.
West Indies might have come out of this level in the series, but their approach of backing themselves to keeping pace with astronomical asking rates in the final few overs against an attack that has no obvious weak link is ill-advised.
Chasing 230 on a good batting track, West Indies lost early wickets — as has become their wont – and consolidated so slowly that the asking rate crossed six in the 26th over. After the early blows, Pakistan had enough overs of Ajmal towards the end to all but ensure the victory.
Pakistan followed the same pattern when they were asked to bat first. Ahmed Shehzad and Nasir Jamshed didn’t do much better than Johnson Charles and Chris Gayle, the latter who now has the worst average among all openers who have played at least 10 innings in the last 12 months. It was followed by slow rebuilding with Misbah-ul-Haq, like Simmons, scoring 75.
At that time, the big difference seemed to be the West Indies part-timers at the death. Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard [who scored yet another duck] on paper should have been no match for Ajmal and Junaid and Riaz. It seemed to be going down that route until pressure burnt off that paper, and a side that used to be the most feared in tight situations now added one more panic attack to their recent history.
Both captains expressed disappointment at the outcome.
“It is really disappointing. We were really in a good position but Holder took the game away. In the last over, we bowled too many full balls to the tail-enders. But hats off to them for the way they played in the last few overs. We did well in the start by taking early wickets. Then the pressure shifted back on us and we didn’t respond well,” Ul-Haq said.
“We should have won this. Once again the batters failed to do the job. With the kind of lower-order we have, we need to do well at the top. The wicket is good to bat on. They have good bowlers. But we needed to do well … we need to get the batting unit sorted out. I didn’t think this was needed. We should have finished the game off much earlier,” Bravo said.