Faith is central to Darren Sammy’s life. So, maybe, it was apt that the West Indies captain strode out to the middle when his team were in need of a minor miracle.
This happened not once, but on two occasions during the current World T20. Dwayne Bravo stood by Sammy both times. Sammy is understated (if you can label a West Indian that) as compared to the flamboyant Bravo, but there have been fireworks when they have come together — on Sunday against Australia, and now, two days later, versus Pakistan.
In Tuesday’s virtual quarterfinal, even the most passionate follower of West Indian cricket would have lost hope of a semifinal berth when the West Indies were 81/5 at the end of the 14th over.
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The openers, Chris Gayle and Dwayne Smith, had been dismissed cheaply after the Windies won the toss and elected to bat. Pakistan skipper Mohammad Hafeez struck a telling blow when he foxed Gayle with the turn by bowling around the wicket. There was no coming back for Gayle, standing outside the popping crease, once he missed the ball. Wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal effected the stumping. In the next over, Kamran caught Smith after medium-pacer Sohail Tanvir exploited the Barbadian’s weakness outside off-stump. Lendl Simmons and Marlon Samuels added 39 for the third wicket, but they were both dismissed in the 10th over. Ramdin, after facing nine balls for his five, tried to slog out of trouble but was caught at midwicket.
Kieron Pollard, who provides the momentum down the order, was missing. So once again it was left to Sammy and Bravo to dig them out of trouble. Sammy joined Bravo on the fifth ball of the 14th over. They had added 26 off 20 balls and at 107/5 at the end of the 17th over, there were no signs of an impending counterattack.
With eighteen balls remaining, the West Indies, doddering at just above six runs an over, would have aspired for the Bravo-Sammy partnership, which had produced 49 off 19 balls while chasing against Australia, to take them to 140 — a target not beyond them though there was no discounting the Pakistan attack.
Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal, Pakistan’s best death-over bowlers had overs in their kitty. Gul bowled the eighteenth and Bravo scored 21 runs off the wily medium-pacer. Hafeez then placed faith in Ajmal, the off-spinner with a doosra most batsmen fail to pick. Sammy took over. Ajmal conceded 24.
Forty-five runs had been scored off 12 balls. Compared to this haemorrhage, Tavir’s final over proved to decent as only 14 was scored off six balls. In all, 82 runs were scored off the last five overs. The turnaround stunned Pakistan.
Fear of failure
Bravo and Sammy had stayed still, waited for the ball and used their powerful arms to dispatch it into the stands. They batted with the knowledge that they had nothing to lose. That they had pulled off a heist in two successive matches was nothing short of a miracle.
The fear of failure gripped the Pakistan batsmen or so it seemed from the way they batted. There seemed to be no plan in place. Ahmed Shehzad, who scored a century against Bangladesh, was trapped leg-before wicket on the first ball of the innings. Kamran Akmal was dismissed by leg-spinner Samuel Badree in the second over.
Panic set in the ranks and four Pakistan batsmen were stumped, trying to use their feet to Badree and offie Sunil Narine without reading the deliveries. When it was all over, West Indies had won by 84 runs. Given that West Indies were 84 for five at the end of the 15th over, before Sammy and Bravo placed faith in their ability to clear the ropes, the margin of victory was a marvel.
Consolation win for Australia
Mirpur: Earlier, Australia signed off their dismal World Twenty20 campaign with a consolation win against Bangladesh after skipper George Bailey hit a six to seal their seven-wicket success against the hosts on Tuesday.
Smarting from a hat-trick of defeats in a tournament they began as one of the favourites, Australia’s only interest in their final Group Two game was to finish with a victory which they achieved with 15 balls to spare in chasing a target of 154. Openers Aaron Finch (71) and David Warner (48) added 98 runs in just over 11 overs to provide the kind of flying start they could not deliver in the previous games, one of the reasons behind their elimination. (Reuters)