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

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15 Apr 2000 (Col (Retd) Rafi Nasim)

Pakistan send Zimbabwe home

The Zimbabwe Captain Andy Flower having won the toss elected to bat. The pitch had dry grass rolled on to the surface and was said to be unlikely to help the fast bowlers. The Queen's Park Stadium Ground was green with picturesque surroundings. The crowed was rather too small for perhaps their national team was not playing.

Zimbabwe opened the innings with Craig Wishart and Neil Johnson against the pace attack of one of the greatest pairs in the game, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Zimbabwe took a steady and sensible start, the batsmen not taking risks. They were mainly resorting to scoring singles and twos with the clean intentions of building the innings, which they did. They hit occasional fours whenever they came across a loose ball. They ended up the first 10 overs at 46 for no loss. Wishart (20) and Johnson (17) were at the crease. It was a reasonably good start made possible by inept Pakistani bowling the bowlers being neither accurate nor penetrative. The fielders were not very agile either, with not much of a pressure from the bowlers, the two openers continued playing with immense confidence.

The introduction of medium pacer Abdur Razzaq and spinner Mushtaq Ahmed and later off-spinner Arshad Khan, however, brought a check on Zimbabwe's score in 20 overs Zimbabwe was 78 for no loss and looked as if they will end up with a big total. Zimbabwe, however, lost its Ist wicket at 84 when Wishart was out after scoring an invaluable 45 runs. The second wicket fell at 92. The pace of scoring having come down due to fall of wickets, Zimbabwe's run rate had come down to less than 4 at 30 overs. After playing an excellent innings of 43 Johnson was caught by Arshad Khan of Mushtaq bringing Zimbabwe down to 118 for 3.

Zimbabwe was keeping an easy pace of scoring while the overs were gradually coming to the end increasing the pace of scoring was inevitable. Zimbabwe lost its 4th wicket at 177 when Murray Goodwin made his exit after scoring a solid 35. Zimbabwe had only 5 overs left. The wicket now went on falling at regular intervals with the result that Zimbabwe ended up the innings at 204 for 7, providing Pakistan a target of 205 runs to win. Off spinner Arshad Khan was the most successful bowler with 3 wickets for 45 runs.

Though the pitch was not allowing the free stroke play, the total was not beyond the capacity of the Pakistan's batting. They had only to apply themselves and avoid throwing away wickets.

Fully confident to win this match, Pakistan opened the batting with young and talented Imran Nazir and the wild adventurer Shahid Afridi against the bowling of Neil Johnson and Andy Blignaut. Exhibiting his typical style Afridi started the innings with a blistering four in his first over. Imran Nazir followed suit, and both of them were hitting a four in every over. It was thrilling one-day cricket for the few spectators watching the match. The sequence had to be cut short, so Afridi was out in the 7th over after scoring 19 runs. Pakistan having lost the first wicket at 49, was 58 for 1 after 10 overs.

Although two of the batsmen Younis Khan and Yousuf Yohhana did not stay for long, Imran Nazir continued to fight like the lone ranger raising Pakistan's score to 100 in the 23rd over. Inzamam was the one keeping his company. Hitting fours and sixes the two of them took Pakistan's score to 136 for 3 in 30 overs Tragedy struck Pakistan when Inzamam snicked a ball from Guy Whittal in the hands of the wicket keeper for an invaluable score of 34. This was the shot, which Inzamam perhaps never intended to play. Pakistan was now 141 for 4, not very far from victory with lot of batting in hand.

After this it was splendid show of batting by Imran Nazir and skipper Moin Khan. Imran Nazir Only a boy of 18 was playing with immense confidence and unprecedented sense of responsibility. At 90 he did look pale but at no stage lost his nerves. Skipper Moin Khan was experienced enough to provide the young boy guidance to carry on. In 40 overs, Pakistan was 176 for 4.

Pakistan was wining the match in any case. Equally important was the young man's first century in one-day cricket and that too on the Caribbean soil. It was in the 41st over that Imran hoisted his well-deserved century. It was a prolific achievement by a player of his age. His masterly innings contained 10 fours and 2 sixes. Exercising a combination of patience and aggression, he had shown magnificent control over his nerves.

Playing a marvelous innings Imran Nazir (105*) and Moin Khan (35*) took Pakistan to the victory target of 205 runs. Pakistan thus defeated Zimbabwe by 6 wickets to enter the finals of the Cable and Wireless Trophy 2000.