West Indies vs Pakistan
Starting time: 2:00 pm IST
The West Indies are fast approaching a moment of truth. Are they well equipped and capable enough to destroy the Pakistani bulldozer when they meet it in the Quarterfinals of the Word Cup 2011, on Wednesday, March 23? After all, the Pakistanis have slapped themselves with an aura of near-invincibility after not only snapping Australia's winning streak in World Cups, but also topping Group A.
What augments this aura, especially for the Windies is that the men from Caribbean have been brown-washed 3-nil in the UAE series in 2008 and also lost to the same opponents, rather convincingly, in the Champions Trophy of Sep-Oct 2009. To go down by 5 wickets and 117 balls to spare (where you were bowled out for a paltry 133) against an opponent in the last match-up against it, is not a very encounraging thing.
But the Windies will do well to take stock and see how far they have progressed since those torrid times. The side has had a so-so time in the World Cup so far, winning just 3 out of its 6 games. It may have crushed the minnows in Group B, but is yet to defeat a top side in the tournament. Apart from a few flashes of brilliance in their campaign so far, they have struggled to rise above mediocrity.
The Windies will have to address their batting woes down the order if they want ot give themselves any chance of overpowering Pakistan. In their game against England last Thursday, the Caribbeaners lost their last 4 wickets for just 3 runs, thus falling short of England's total by 18, while against India, the Windies lost their last 7 wickets for 28 runs. They are perhaps missing the services of a Dwayne Bravo to bolster up the latter-middle order.
Therefore, it is all the more important that the batsmen at the top affix big bounties on their wickets. Chris Gayle leads the averages' chart for his side with 54.00, followed by Devon Smith with 48.82 and Kieron Pollard with 38.80. All these batsman will have to jell with the verve and experience of Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan to make sure that a decent amount of runs come.
Luckily for the Windies, Pakistan's batting hasn't been any great shakes either, with this team facing issues at the top of the order. While Kamran Akmal has recently usurped the opening slot of a flopping Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez is still battling poor form. The team's strenth lies in the middle to latter order with Younis Khan (avg: 34:40), Misbah ul Haq (avg:38.40) and Umar Akmal (avg: 42.20) all doing a fairly good job.
Pakistan's bowling is also comparable to that of the Windies. The former side's Shahid Afridi has picked up the tournament's highest haul of 17 wickets at an average of 12.05, while Windies paceman Kemar Roach has 13 scalps at 12.00 runs conceded per. But while Pakistan's second best bowler in the Cup, Umar Gul, also has 13 wickets at 14.65, Windies off-break Suliemann Benn has declined in efficacy, going wicketless in the last two matches and seeing his average drop to 21.66.
Gayle and Sarwan will be key men for the Windies in Wednesday's clash as they average 78.33 and 54.00, respectively, against Pakistan since the last World Cup, while Umar Gul has picked up a noteworthy 12 wickets from 4 matches against the Windies in the same period. Meanwhile, Younis and Misbah have been other batsmen who have performed consistently against the Caribbeaners.
So, the Quarterfinals of the World Cup 2011 are all set to get underway with a rip-rollicking contest. Will the strengths of the two sides over-ride their respective weaknesses? March 23 holds the answer.