C and W International Limited Over SeriesC and W International Limited Over Series

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23 Apr 2000 (Col (Retd) Rafi Nasim)

Pakistan grabs the trophy after a few scares

After winning a final each the two sides were pitched against each other for the 3rd and decisive match. The result of this match would determine the winner of the trophy. Like Saturday, the Queens Park Oval was full to capacity with the crowd cheering and chanting because their own team was batting first. The West Indies opened with their regular pair of Sherwin Campbell and Philo Wallace. Pakistan having recalled, speed merchant Shoaib Akhtar, he took over the attack along with Wasim Akram. The pitch was the same as for Saturday but did not help the batsmen.

The West Indies had safe and steady beginning collecting singles and twos. With the help of a couple of fours, they were able to score 36 runs for no loss in the first 10 overs. This was a better start than the two previous finals. The two openers were holding the crease quite confidently hoisting 50 of the innings in 14th overs. Looking desperately for a break through, the Pakistan skipper brought in leg spinner Mushtaq Ahmed to bowl, the change that worked wonders.

The first break through was, however, earned by Abdur Razzaq bowling at the other end when he got hero of the previous matches Sherwin Campbell out for only 26, bringing the West Indies to 61 for 1. Mushtaq Ahmed struck next when he got the second opener Philo Wallace stumped for a solid 30, with West Indies remaining at 61 for 2. Mushtaq was now striking like lightening. His guile appeared beyond the apprehension of most batsmen. Wavell Hinds was the next to go with West Indies now at 71 for 4. Ricardo Powell walked away at the same score. 71 being the unlucky figure for the West Indies they had lost three wickets at this total. So the West Indies were 71 for 5, Mushy having captured 3 wickets in one over.

The Pakistani bowlers having mesmerized the batsmen were not allowing them any liberties. The West Indies lost their next wicket when Rudley Jacobs was trapped LBW by Saqlain Mushtaq, who had joined the team after a month's lay off. The West Indies were 83 for 6.

Speedster Shoaib Akhtar having come for his second spell played havoc with the ball. He clean bowled skipper Jimmy Adams, with West Indies reduced to 97 for 7 followed by bowling out Curtly Ambrose at the same total. The West Indies were down to 97 for 8.

Franklyn Rose and Nixon Mclean, the two bowlers holding the crease were trying to entertain the crowd with some exciting shots. For how long could they continue this role? Nixon Mclean trying a flying shot was out off the bowling of Saqlain, bringing the West Indies down to 114 for 9. Reon King the last man came in and was run out at the same total.

The West Indies were all out for 114 runs in 33 overs, the lowest total at the Queen's Park Oval. By capturing 4 wickets for 22 runs in his 8 magical overs, Mushtaq Ahmed emerged as super star of the day.

The target of 115 runs was the one that any team would dream off. It certainly was within the grasp of Pakistan.

Although the target of 115 runs to win the match and the trophy looked an easy one but was not so practically. In put Pakistan into a big trouble. Since winning the match was vital for both the teams, the West Indies could not take it easy. Both the teams were thus under pressure.

Pakistan did not start off well, Both the openers Shahid Afridi and Imran Nazir having made their exit in 9 overs, with 18 runs on the board, there was hardly a foundation laid for the team. With Abdur Razzaq snicking a ball into the hands of wicket keeper Jacobs off Reon King, Pakistan was 19 for 3. It had so far been a display of careless batting.

Inzamam-ul-Haq took the crease. Being a consistent performer, all eyes were now focussed on him. Having been the Pakistan's most shining star, he could be trusted to take Pakistan to the victory stand. The West Indies bowlers were maintaining a very tight line to restrict Pakistan's scoring with the result that in 20 overs, Pakistan was 39 for 3. Inzamam and Younis Khan were doing their best to keep the inning intact. The prime object was to stay at the wicket and win the match; the run rate mattered the least.

Younis Khan was out in the 25th over after scoring a slow but useful 17. Pakistan was now 61 for 4. There was moment of excitement when Inzamam got hurt and had to call for a runner. At this stage Pakistan needed 45 runs to win, Yousuf Youhana also gone in the 31st over Pakistan was now 73 for 5.

Moin Khan joined Inzamam at the crucial juncture. It was thought to be the right moment for him to play the captain's innings but unfortunately it was not so. Moin Khan was out after scoring 10 runs only. Pakistan was now 93 for 6, only 22 runs short of the victory target. Wasim Akram joined an injured an limping Inzamam (33), holding the fort with tremendous courage. With a two off Ambrose Wasim Akram hoisted 100 of the Pakistan innings in the 38th over, now needing 15 runs to win.

By keeping the end intact and scoring odd runs, Wasim Akram ably shared Inzamam's burden. Though the West Indies fielders had virtually encircled the Pakistani batsmen, they were still stealing runs by playing through the gaps.

The moment of joy at last came when Inzamam-ul-Haq thrashed Nixon Mclean to square cut for a four to hoist a 4 wickets victory for Pakistan. Inzamam was not out after playing a gallant innings of 39 while Wasim Akram had scored a highly valuable 10 runs. More than the runs, it was his stay at the wicket in the moment of crisis that mattered.

Pakistan ultimately clinched the Trophy and achieved the distinction of winning a series in the Caribbean's. Though every victory is treated as a team effort, some players stand out for their remarkable performance. Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mushtaq Ahmed and Wasim Akram are the pillars of this magnificent triumph.