Ravi Rampaul, whose inclusion ahead of Andre Russell was largely due to his five-for against India, got another chance with the ball in the 18th over. And Mohammed Hafeez greeted him with a square drive you would have called exquisite -- and regretted it, because the next ball was cover driven with such skill and grace, you'd have had no adjectives left.
There are times when doing something makes no sense -- and right now, this blog and its five-over updates falls in that category. This game is over; Pakistan is on the verge of sealing one of the most emphatic wins ever in a World Cup competition between full nations, and there is nothing left to 'update'.
Pakistan's performance has been scarily close to perfection -- a couple of blemishes in the field, a momentary lapse in concentration, are the only 'lapses' you could maybe point at, if you were in a particularly carping mood.
Against that, the West Indies disgraced itself, letting down the proud tradition of previous squads. Rarely does a major nation play an entire ODI game without at least one silver lining to point at -- an individual performance with bat or ball, a moment of magic in the field -- something, anything to light up the gloom. This was an aberration -- there was no one moment, with bat, or ball, or in the field, that the team will want to recall.
And finally -- I am updating this with Pakistan needing another 14 runs to seal the win -- Mohammed Hafeez has nailed MoM. I thought he deserved it the other day ahead of Umar Akmal; even had he not got a single run in this innings I'd think he deserved it here for an exemplary spell beginning in the second over that was not only miserly to an extraordinary degree, thus shutting one end up and permitting attacking bowling at the other, but his taking out of Devon Smith and Darren Bravo in one over pretty much finished off this game as a contest, even before it had properly begun.
And with that, we are shutting this down. And will be back, live, tomorrow for the second quarter final, between India and Australia.
See you at that game.
Pakistan: Overs 11-15:
The most noticeable aspect of Pakistan's cricket in this game is the total ruthlessness. Barring a brief period after they had knocked over the first eight West Indian wickets, they appeared to take their foot momentarily off the gas pedal -- but quickly got their heads wrapped around the job to take two in two overs and finish things off well inside the distance.
With the bat, the attitude has been the same -- a blazing assault on the opening quicks that did not allow either Roach or Rampaul to settle; tip and run to rotate the strike when Sammy and Rampaul settled into a modicum of rhythm, and the calculated risk taken to blaze a boundary any time one of the Windies bowlers looked like getting a measure of control.
The cricket has been relentless -- the kind you need not just form, but also strength of mind and will, to resist. The West Indies, which hasn't had a good win against a Test nation in living memory, had neither.
Hafeez again was the best in class during this five over spell, and the standout was a stroke he played to the first ball of the 14th over. Bishoo bowled the arm ball just outside off, very close to the stumps. Hafeez spotted the length, stayed back, and late cut it out of the keeper's gloves to the backward point boundary. What stood out about that shot was the beauty of its conception -- it could easily have been defended off the front foot, or let go by a batsman covering the stumps. The shot Hafeez played had the stamp of a batsman who had the bowler's measure, was reading him out of the hand, and finding no terrors.
At the end of 15, Pakistan are 85/0, with just 28 to get.
Pakistan: Overs 6-10:
Devendra Bishoo in the 6th, and Darren Sammy in the 7th, introduced an element of sanity to the proceedings with back to back maidens. But what the West Indies needed was wickets, not tight, defensive bowling -- and neither batsman seemed in a mood to oblige.
In fact, neither batsman seemed in the mood to allow the West Indies bowlers to settle into a run-denying spell, either -- in his second over, Hafeez seized on a rank long hop from Bishoo and creamed it past square off the back foot; another four squired off the thick outer edge of the bat later in the over and at the other end to bring the 50 up off just 48 balls (imagine the momentum of this innings if, despite back to back maidens, the 50 came up at better than a run a ball).
At the other end, Sammy thought anything Bishoo can do, I can do better -- and bowled one so short, so lacking in direction, it belonged in the trash can. Akmal obliged.
It is that kind of day.
What is noticeable about this bowling effort is that it is so totally lacking in heart. None of the bowlers seem to have come out with the intent to make things difficult for the batsmen -- they seem defeated in the mind, and it reflects in the way the bowlers have gifted fours (9 of them so far).
After 10, Pakistan are 58/0. Another way of looking at it is, Pakistan took 10 overs to knock off half the target. The West Indies, incidentally, reached 58, for the loss of three top order batsmen, after 24 overs.
Pakistan: Overs 1-5:
For all of Chris Gayle's heaves, the West Indies managed 16 runs in the first five overs for the loss of that batsman -- that is how controlled Umar Gul and Mohammed Hafeez were, at the start of the innings.
The West Indies' opening attack was the antithesis: the second ball of the innings, from Roach, was short and wide of off, inviting Hafeez to blaze away through point; the fourth ball was a full length delivery on the batsman's pads, angling across with "flick me please" inscribed all over it.
In the next over, Ravi Rampaul's second ball was short and wide outside off -- an attempt to keep it out of reach of an advancing Kamran Akmal. All that meant was that instead of going to the left of point, it went to the right. The final ball of that over was an attempted yorker -- but it was angling into leg stump across the batsman, and set up the simple flick.
Besides the fact of how these deliveries were gimmes, consider this: both opening bowlers gave away their first four on the off side, and then their next by drifting down leg. That was indisciplined, thoughtless bowling pure and simple -- and it ensured that even vestigial pressure the Pakistani opening batsmen may have been feeling was dissipated as early as the end of two overs, at which point the chasing side had raced to 25/0 (the West Indies when batting got to 25 in the 13th over).
Try another stat: there were a total of 7 fours in the entire West Indies innings. At the end of 5 overs, in course of which Pakistan, thanks to the exuberance of their openers and the lack of discipline of the Windies opening bowlers, had careened to 43/0 with six fours; the highlight being a magnificent punch on the up through covers by Kamran Akmal in the 5th over. That is, in case you needed reminding, 1/3rd of the target knocked off inside the first five overs.
West Indies: Overs 41-45:
Having batted sensibly for the best part of a 15 over-long association with Chanderpaul for the 9th wicket, and just when it looked as if West Indies would at the very least bat out the 50 overs, Roach had a rush-of-blood moment that caused him to aim a lofted drive at an Abdur Razzaq incutter not full enough for the bat to get under it. The result was a toe edge that went straight to midwicket, giving Younis Khan a chance to hold one after he had let two very hard slip chances elude him earlier in the Windies innings. The 40 run partnership ensured that the West Indies went past its previous lowest against Pakistan.
In the very next over, Afridi floated one long and drifted it more in the air; Ravi Rampaul aimed a sweep down the wrong line, found the ball landing on leg and hitting leg stump behind his back and it was all over -- West Indies 112 all out in 43.3; Chanderpaul undefeated on 44, and Afridi further cementing his lead in the wicket-taking stakes with a haul of 4/30.
There is some talk of how small chases are tricky -- but the West Indies bowling lineup will need to produce a walk-on-water performance to make anything out a target that Pakistan, on current form, should overhaul within the first 25, 30 overs.
See you back with more updates once Pakistan starts its chase.
West Indies: Overs 36-40:
Mohammed Hafeez completed his two remaining overs, ending with figures of 10-3-16-2 -- but the true value of his spell lay in the two wickets he took in the 6th over of the West Indies innings to send back Devon Smith and Darren Bravo, landing a one-two punch from which the innings never fully recovered.
Kemar Roach survived a chance of sorts when a lifter from Wahab Riaz found the edge and eluded the grasping fingers of a diving Younis Khan, but the batsman responded with a whiplash flick to the midwicket fence later in the over that took the West Indies to 100.
Afridi brought Umar Gul back to try and finish things off, but the Dhaka pitch and outfield are not quite as abrasive as say Chennai; the ball is in much better shape, and there is not as much reverse to be had. Also, as evidenced by the batting of an increasingly assured Roach, the little moisture on the deck earlier in the day has dried off, and the ball is now coming on nice and true.
These last five, ten overs have also been marked by a diminishing of Pakistan's edge. With the batting team down at 71/8, you expected someone like Afridi to go for the jugular but the field got spread, the bowling appeared to lose some of its sharpness, and a sense of drift was evident in the performance of the bowling side.
Windies ended the 40th over on 104/8. The 9th wicket has added 33 runs -- the second highest partnership following the 42 Sarwan and Chanderpaul scraped together for the fourth wicket.
West Indies: Overs 31-35:
Over the last game and a half, Kamran Akmal had managed to put his personal horror show behind him, and so far forgot his earlier travails as to hold his head in his hands when Umar Gul missed a simple catch in the outfield.
The 32nd over produced more head-clutching, this time on his own account. Saeed Ajmal, round the wicket to the left hander, lured Chanderpaul out with lovely flight and drift; the breaking ball beat the batsman's flick and all Akmal had to do was complete a simple stumping. Instead, he somehow managed to get the ball onto his chin off the heel of his hand -- and it says a lot for the state of the game that his mates close in merely asked him if he was okay, shrugged, and got on with it.
When you have the opposition at 80/8, what's a missed stumping or two between friends?
Kemar Roach showed far more skill and heart than those who had gone before -- and that coupled with Chanderpaul's stickiness ensured that the Windies made 16 runs off these last five overs to finish on 90/8. And the scary part is, this is one of the best five-over spells the West Indies has had in this game.
West Indies: Overs 26-30:
Off the first ball of the 26th over, Chanderpaul went down on his knee and slog-swept Saeed Ajmal into the crowd at midwicket. And that was that. It reminded you of when you wake from a deep sleep, jump out of bed, hit the loo, grab a drink of cold water, and lapse right back into deep, refreshing sleep.
In the next over, Shahid Afridi prompted @manuscrypts, on Twitter, to coin a new name for the men in maroon: Waste Indies.
Afridi, who has mastered the art of using the bowling crease, went wide of the stumps and rushed a delivery through on length that came in on the angle. Pollard, who during his brief stint had already shown a distinct discomfort when playing spin, stood in place and aimed a cut or something like it; the ball was too close to the body and the batsman too tall to really get down into the shot. Kamran Akmal held the faint edge with some skill.
His appeal was vociferous, but even Akmal found new decibel levels to breach next ball, when Afridi went close to the stumps and rushed one through in the air and off the wicket. The ball was too good for Devon Thomas, who could only stand there helplessly while the ball rushed in and pinned him in front of off and middle.
Darren Sammy managed somehow to see off the hat-trick ball, and crossed to the other end where Saeed Ajmal was waiting for him. The first ball of the 28th over caught the edge and just eluded a dive by Younis Khan at slip. One ball later, Ajmal got one to drift in; Sammy quickly arranged himself in defensive posture and stood there watching in horror as the ball ripped off the deck, went past his bat and pinned him bang in front of middle stump.
You thought it couldn't get worse. It did. Ajmal went around the wicket and produced a doosra. Bishoo was well forward, playing for the conventional delivery; the ball broke back in, went past the edge, and cracked middle stump.
Two ways to sum up this passage of play. One, these five overs produced 14 runs and 4 wickets. Two, in the 30th over, Chanderpaul twice turned down singles because he did not want to expose Kemar Roach to Ajmal. And finally, when he looked for the single off the last ball to retain strike, he couldn't -- the bowler was too good, the fielder too close.
West Indies: Overs 21-25:
Plots have been lost before, but never quite so thoroughly as this effort by the West Indies.
Between them, Sarwan and Chanderpaul faced 111 deliveries (a little over one third of the entire innings quota), and managed 42 runs inclusive of extras.
As the commentary cliche goes, something had to give. Something did: Sarwan, unable to get the ball away off the square with conventional strokes, tried to stay back and make room to cut Shahid Afridi -- again, the intent was so clearly telegraphed, Afridi held the ball back, shortened the length, got it to bounce, and forced the batsman to mishit it to point.
Keiron Pollard walked in needing to hit long, hit often, and keep it going for far longer than his risk-laden style would seem to permit. At the halfway point, Windies are 60/4 and going nowhere in a hurry.
West Indies: Overs 16-20:
Just how much statistics are about context was underlined during this phase. When Shahid Afridi removed Wahab Riaz from the attack and brought himself on, the initial feeling was 'About time too, the guy is proving expensive and releasing the pressure.'
Consider the bowling analysis at that period, though: Riaz 3-0-15-0. And suddenly he doesn't look quite so expensive after all -- until you consider that Umar Gul's figures read 5-1-11-1, and Hafeez at the time of the bowling switch had 8-3-12-2.
Afridi, whose bowling has been one of the revelations of this tournament, began with a maiden that included two close shouts for LBW against Sarwan, one reviewed, one not. And calling the shots impeccably, he switched Hafeez off at the other end (at that time, Hafeez had bowled 34 balls to Sarwan and Chanderpaul, and given 5 runs) and brought in Saeed Ajmal -- perfect timing, since neither batsmen looks remotely capable of putting pressure on the bowler, thus allowing him that space to settle into his job.
In his second over, Afridi nearly dealt the Windies another blow, when he had the frustrated Sarwan blindly charging a flighted leg break from Afridi outside off. His attempted lofted drive misfired thanks to the turning ball taking the thick outer edge; at wide long off, Umar Gul ambled across, seemed to have the line of flight covered, but then made a lazy grab that saw the ball spill through his fingers.
West Indies are 47/3. This period produced 10 runs. That seems to sum up the story for the West Indies -- this innings could well be framed, and hung up, with the title 'Still Life in Maroon'.
West Indies: Overs 11-15:
Shahid Afridi's use of Mohammed Hafeez is proving to be interesting. In the previous game, the Pakistan skipper brought him on after the 15th over, and kept him on at one end till he had bowled through, the intent being to totally button one end up and allow attacking bowlers to rotate at the other end. Here, Hafeez was employed right at the outset, with the same intent -- and the wickets be produced proved to be a bonus.
For the West Indies, Sarwan and Chanderpaul batted as well as they were allowed to -- which is, not very well at all. Watching Sarwan bat thus far has been a bit surreal -- there is the front foot movement, everything coming into line, the batting swinging, meeting ball -- and then the ball rolls gently to fielders on the off and on sides standing well within the 30-yard circle. He managed 4 runs from 28 balls before some wayward bowling by Wahab Riaz, understudying for Umar Gul, allowed him a measure of relief with an edge down to fine leg and a drive through the covers, the latter being the only authentic shot the batsman has played all day.
Chanderpaul's travails can be summed up in one instance -- given a free hit when Riaz overstepped, he went so far back on the leg side trying to make room -- and he did it so early -- that all the bowler had to do was bowl length outside off. The best Chanderpaul could do was get the toe end of the bat for a single. His current situation: 27 balls faced. 3 runs scored.
For now, the Windies batsmen have the shell-shocked appearance of being caught in the aftermath of a hurricane; trouble is, they are running out of time to gather their wits and try and make something of this game. Another five overs of this form of batting, and they might as well not bother.
West Indies: Overs 6-10: 18/3
Former England coach David Lloyd once described New Zealand all-rounder Chris Harris, on TV, thus: "He is a very dangerous bowler. Innocuous, if you like."
That was Bumble getting his tongue, and knickers, in a twist in a moment of excitement -- but it actually does describe Mohammed Hafeez perfectly: His seemingly innocuous style hides a host of unexpected dangers. Hafeez is not so much about giving the ball a tweak (and that makes him handy to bowl with the new ball) as he is about using the width and depth of the crease to subtly vary his lines and create illusions for the hapless batsman at the other end.
The best of his craft was on show in the 6th over. First, he got a flighted delivery to land on off line, drawing the batsman forward; rather than turn as the batsman expected it to, the ball straightened and Devon Smith was nailed, plumb.
Darren Bravo almost did himself in first ball, when he hung back in his crease and, of all things, attempted to cut a ball that was full and straight. Having somehow scrambled to keep that one out, Bravo went forward to the next, predeterminedly pushing down what batsmen refer to as the 'first line' -- the line of flight. Hafeez made this one dip, curve, and turn just enough to beat the bat and get the batsman in front of leg. 16/3 at the end of 6 (Hafeez 3-1-6-2) and the Windies were in absolute disarray, dependent on their most experienced batsmen, Sarwan and the rehabilitated Shiv Chanderpaul, to bat them out of jail. The three early wickets also means that Shahid Afridi can give his attacking instinct full rein -- and that adds to the pressure on the batsmen.
The stat that should matter at this point? This five over period has seen 2 runs scored, and two wickets taken. That is the most accurate barometer of the state of the game as any.
West Indies: Overs 1-5: 16/1
The focus in the opening exchanges were predictably on the Chris Gayle versus Umar Gul match up -- and the Pakistan bowler landed the knock out punch as early as his second over.
Gul's control of length and line is immaculate, and that makes telegraphing intent very risky for a batsman. Early in Gul's second over, Gayle came dancing down and swatted him over the mid off fielder's head; Gul's response was an inswinging yorker that Gayle dug out, hastily checking his initial movement forward. Next ball, Gayle was down the track again -- Gul held the ball back a fraction and swung it in tighter to middle and leg line, Gayle got the toe edge of the bat on the attempted hit, and the ball flew straight to a jubilant Shahid Afridi at mid off.
The wicket of Gayle early in the innings impacts both teams: for Pakistan, it means that the bowling side can now look to limit run-scoring, bowl tight containing lines (Mohammed Haneef, sharing the new ball with Gul, has been tasked to do just that with his wicket to wicket, tight to the stumps line), put close fielders in place and build up pressure.
For the West Indies, it means regrouping, switching to Plan B rather earlier than they thought they would have to. Ramnaresh Sarwan walked in at number three, signaling that the Windies will now look to consolidate a bit before pressing down on the accelerator. And that should suit Pakistan just fine, for now.
Pre-Game: So how do we tag this game? A clash of the unpredictable versus the imponderable?
If there are two teams in world cricket today you don't want to predict anything about, it must be the two that kick off the quarterfinal knockout round today. The West Indies, after their descent from the heady days of Lloyd and Richards, tend to blow now hot, now cold. Facing them is Pakistan -- a team no one (with the honorable exception of Mahela Jayawardene) talked about before the Cup started, but who now finds itself sitting on top of its group at the end of the league. More notably, they became the side that ended Australia's record 34-game unbeaten streak in World Cups.
On balance, Pakistan seems to have the better bowling attack (and with reports of clouds over Dhaka, their quicks, more adept at swing both conventional and reverse, will find an extra edge); the Windies probably shades Pakistan in the batting stakes by a hairs-breadth. But that's on paper -- as pointed out at the outset, there really is very little point in analyzing the on-paper strength of two teams that, on the day, can be mediocre or brilliant as the mood takes them.
One thing guaranteed -- it should be an electric contest, the best possible curtain raiser for the knock out stage. We'll be bringing you live analytical updates, ever five overs, starting 2.30 PM IST.
Meanwhile, the West Indies has won the toss and predictably, on a wicket that could slow down and stop a bit as the game goes on, opted for first strike. Chris Gayle is back, as is Kemar Roach to lead the bowling attack; Shiv Chanderpaul, benched after a fairly poor run of form, makes it back into the lineup, and in a bit of a surprise, Windies have dropped its talismanic spinner Suleiman Benn, and given lead spinner role to Devendra Bishoo.
If that many changes to a lineup indicates a team not fully settled into its stride, Pakistan on the other hand is showing the confidence of a winning streak, and has made one change: Saeed Ajmal comes into the lineup for Abdur Rehman.
See you at the game.