Wednesday, February 23, 2011

PAKISTAN VS KENYA WORLD CUP MACTCH 2011highlights:Afridi shines with the ball

Hambantota: As a coach, Waqar Younis knows the drill of how teams need to win the games that matter in convincing fashion.

He has been through the drill as well as an elite fast bowler, captain and now the man who as an integral part of the management team that is trying to pull Pakistan together after a year fraught with controversies.

Before the game against Kenya at the Sooiryawewa Stadium on Wednesday, even the isolation of the venue in this part of Sri Lanka failed, to underline just how Pakistan were in a mood to show the top sides they mean business.

Pre-match Waqar, the bowler who delivered some toe-crushing deliveries in his time, was interested only in delivering thoughts of victory. His comments of how Younis Khan is in good form and Umar Akmal is a youngster who will do probably well in this tournament.

“All we need to do is click and click at the right time,” Waqar commented.

How right he was. A convincing 205 runs victory over Kenya is the sort of result that Pakistan hoped to deliver their fans at home as well as those following the side in Sri Lanka. Despite the initial top-order stutters, they were always in command of the situation.

Umar went on to win man of the match with his innings of 71 off 52 balls and a smart strike rate of 136. He was fluent and decisive and for those who remember his batting in Australia and New Zealand, there much to suggest that he will be one of the middle-order men to watch. There is a lot of flexibility about his batting and the rotation of the strike was an impressive detail to watch.

This is despite a major fielding improvement in the early stages by Kenya, still reeling for their 10 wickets defeat by New Zealand in the opening game on Sunday. It has to be admitted that it is not the Kenya of 2003, the one that reached the semi-final, and while Pakistan were wary of the side from East Africa, they were never really challenged.

At the start, the story of Pakistan is about Shahid Afridi’s leadership skills. There was a lot of pre-tournament comment about how he would handle the side. He was rarely under pressure in this second game in Hambantota and his five wickets in eight overs, giving away explains much about his luck.

Kenya though led to their own downfall through some soft dismissals and you can bet the coach Eldine Baptiste, a former West Indies all-rounder who has been in the job for 18 months and from the look of his charges and their efforts so far this tournament, has a long way to go before the team starts showing signs of revival.

As for Pakistan, the admission they are having to play in Sri Lanka s opposed to home venues because of political instability, explains at times the type of split personality which has left the side struggling at times for an identity. There will be some worry about the top-order failures as well.

Mohammed Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad at times struggled to find each other and it would be cruel, yet perhaps kind, to suggest their early departures might yet be a blessing. It at least allowed some solid batting practice for Kamran Akmal (55), Younis Khan (50) and Misbah—ul-Haq (65) to build partnerships.

All this allowed 21-year-old Umar Akmal to display the form, which has turned him into a bubbling technician, not afraid to play his strokes and work the ball around. His 118 run partnership with Mishbah was the perfect platform needed by the Pakistan lower-order. Pakistan have also gone for the seven-batsmen plan with two of them doubling as all-rounders with Hafeez off-spin adding the to the variety.

Afridi at least didn’t do his usual grandstanding when taking his wickets. His DJ antics were absent and just as well, as the way Kenya’s innings capitulated explained there is a lot of work ahead of them to make an impact again. At this rate, their chances of playing in the ICC crumbs on the table offering ICC World T20 in Sri Lanka next year depends on how they can recover.

What is interesting about the way Afridi bowled is that he had the batsmen under pressure most of the time and enjoyed the experience of bowling in a situation that was more a practice than a genuine contest. This may seem harsh, but it is the type of batting that Kenya provided in the latter part of their innings. From 73 for three to a total of 112 in a little more than six overs explains the debacle.

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