The nature of the surface – lively and bouncy – added much to the ODI between Pakistan and the West Indies at the Wanderers here on Wednesday.
The ball flew around and the batsmen – in a format favouring them – were posed searching questions by the pacemen. The contest may have been short of runs but was not short on intensity.
Pakistan, chasing 134, eventually won this Group `A' match of the ICC Champions Trophy by five wickets in the 31st over.
Joining hands when Pakistan was under some pressure at 76 for five, Man of the Match Umar Akmal (41 not out, 51b, 6x4) and skipper Shahid Afridi (17 not out) settled the issue for their side.
However, credit is due to a depleted West Indies side for the manner in which it fought back on the field after being let down by its specialist batsmen.
The impressive Gavin Tonge – the paceman finished with four wickets -struck early for the West Indies. Imran Nazir, fatally, attempted to whip one across the line and Kamran Akmal was prised out by a teasing delivery outside off. Pakistan was 22 for two in the sixth over.
Tonge was not as speedy as Tino Best but bowled with control from a high-arm action, probing the batsmen around the off-stump and extracting a fair measure of lift.
Shoaib Malik – he struck Tonge for a spectacular six over point – and Mohammad Yousuf were putting together a partnership when Tongue lured Malik into nicking a fuller length delivery outside off-stump. Yousuf, fortunate when reprieved early by Darren Sammy in the slips off Tonge, ran out of luck against the same bowler when he gloved one down the leg-side when on 23.
“Keeper Walton was busy behind the stumps. He took his fourth catch of the innings when Misbah-ul-Haq played a loose drive at a David Bernard delivery. The West Indies appeared to have an outside chance.
But then Umar, struck a painful blow by a Best beamer, and stand-in Afridi . Umar is someone with terrific bat speed and hand-eye coordination. He struck some weighty blows in a low-scoring face-off.
Earlier, only a brave 51 (57b, 6x4, 1x6) from Nikita Miller enable the depleted West Indies to cross the 125-run mark. The innings concluded in the 35th over.
The pitch at the Wanderers was lively. The ball zipped around and there was nice bounce and carry; 'keeper Kamran Akmal was regularly gathering deliveries over his head. The Pakistani pacemen were humming after the West Indies skipper Floyd Reifer opted to bat.
Mohammed Aamer, as exciting as they come, was running in with lovely rhythm. Crucially, Aamer moved the ball into the right-hander, mixing this delivery with the one that angled away. Given Aamer's quick-arm action, the West Indians struggled to pick the paceman.
Both Aamer and Umar Gul changed their length adeptly, whether pitching the ball up or banging it in short. Resultantly, the West Indians were tentative in their feet movement.
The pacemen made deep inroads. Travis Dowlin and Devon Smith, key batsmen in this West Indian line-up, failed to make a sizable contribution.
Dowlin opted to cut a delivery that was not wide enough for such a stroke. Bowler Aamer and 'keeper Akmal celebrated.
Smith was done in by the extra bounce. To his credit, Umar Gul smartly switched to round the wicket and got the ball to climb into the southpaw's body.
Gul bowled with pace and venom. He prised out Reifer with a delivery in the corridor that bounced more than the batsman expected. Then, a swinging fuller length ball first up caught Chadwick Walton in front.
Gul had struck twice in the 15th over of the innings. The West Indies was reeling at 47 for seven.
Sammy and Miller led a fightback of sorts. Sammy essayed a couple of flourishing inside-out cover-drives. Miller ptorduced a few spunky shots as well.
Eventually, Sammy played over a flighted fuller delivery from off-spinner Saeed Ajmal but Miller continued to offer spirited resistance.
West Indies innings:
Dale Richards c&b Aamer 1
Andre Fletcher c Nazir b Naved-ul-Hasan 7
Devon Smith c Umar Akmal b Umar Gul 18
Travis Dowlin c Kamran Akmal b Aamer 0
Floyd Reifer c Misbah-ul-Haq b Gul 7
David Bernard b Aamer 6
Darren Sammy b Ajmal 25
Chadwick Walton lbw b Gul 0
Nikita Miller c Malik b Afridi 51
Tino Best st Akmal b Ajmal 8
Gavin Tonge not out 4
Extras (W-5, NB-1) 6
Total (all out in 34.3 overs) 133
Fall of wickets: 1-2, 2-11, 3-14, 4-36, 5-43, 6-47, 7-47, 8-85, 9-121, 10-133.
Bowling: Aamer 7-1-24-3, Naved-ul-Hasan 7-0-26-1, Afridi 8.3-0-39-1, Ajmal 4-0-16-2.
Imran Nazir b Tonge 5
Kamran Akmal c Walton b Tonge 5
Shoaib Malik c Walton b Tonga 23
Mohammed Yousif c Walton b Tonge 23
Misbah-ul-Hag c Walton b Bernard 6
Umar Akmal not out 41
Shahid Afridi not out 17
Extras: (2lb, 3nb, 9w) 14
TOTAL: (for 5 wickets) 134 Overs: 30.3.
Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-21, 3-54, 4-61, 5-76.
Bowling: Darren Sammy 7-0-29-0, Gavin Tonga 10-3-25-4(2nb, 1w),
Tino Best 6.3-0-0-50-0 (1nb, 5w), David Bernard 7-0-28-1(3w).
Result: Pakistan wins by 5 wickets.
Toss: West Indies.
Umpires: Steve Davis and Daryl Harper, Australia.
TV umpire: Simon Taufel, Australia. Match referee: Javagal Srinath, India.