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Cricket: Pakistan ride fightback to win series

Pakistan ride fightback to win seriesPakistan 232 (Misbah 52, Taylor 3-38, Powell 3-50) beat West Indies 208 (Chanderpaul 107*, Gul 3-44 ) by 24 runs

Unlike the manic fireworks of the first game, Friday was more of a slow-burning scrap. Pakistan were, once again, second-best at the halfway stage but survived a tight finish to win the match and seal the series. Like in the first match, there was a typical century from a senior West Indies batsman - a dogged one from Shivnarine Chanderpaul this time - but there wasn't enough support from the rest.

Sohail Tanvir's menacing opening spell helped Pakistan fight back after a disciplined West Indies bowling had kept them down to a less-than-average total. He was the star performer but each member of the Pakistan attack played his part: Umar Gul hounded the batsmen with a mix of bouncers and yorkers, Iftikhar Anjum kept probing away just outside off stump and was unlucky to not get more than one wicket, Shahid Afridi provided the crucial breakthrough by removing Ramnaresh Sarwan, and Saeed Ajmal confounded West Indies with his doosras.

Tanvir had the ball jagging around viciously and danger man Chris Gayle struggled to pick which way it was moving. He lasted only six balls, as the final delivery of Tanvir's first over, an overpitched inswinger, homed in on leg stump. He also dismissed the other opener, Sewnarine Chattergoon, for a duck after the batsman nibbled at an away-going ball to the keeper.

That brought Chanderpaul to the crease, and he wasn't dislodged till the end. There were several close lbw calls, a couple of dropped catches, a french cut, a run-out appeal, but Chanderpaul soldiered on. His forte is survival and that's just what he did today. He hauled his team within sight of the finish line but ran out of partners before crossing it.

He found an early ally in Ramnaresh Sarwan, who rode out his share of troubles against Tanvir. With Anjum also making life difficult, the pair made cautious progress; West Indies had dawdled to 49 for 2 after 17 overs. Chanderpaul was struggling to time the ball early on and it was Sarwan who was in charge during that phase.

He was unafraid to loft the bowlers in the air and used the cut shot well but was done in by a quicker ball from Afridi while attempting that stroke. West Indies were 103 for 2 in 28.2 overs, and with a settled Chanderpaul, were still the front-runners.

However, none of their other batsmen made more than 12. The slide started with a couple of run-outs: both Xavier Marshall and Shawn Findlay wanted a single but were sent back by Chanderpaul and couldn't make their ground.

West Indies were made to scrounge for every run and the asking-rate steadily inched towards 7.5. Their troubles were compounded by the slow outfield and long boundaries, as the ropes had been pulled back for the match. Chanderpaul decided to use the remaining Powerplay: he kept the boundaries coming and it was down to 65 off 55 before he lost two more of his partners. Ajmal and Tanvir came back and dried up the runs before Umar Gul finished things off with a couple of well-directed yorkers. Chanderpaul remained unbeaten on 107.

The target of 233 was one Chris Gayle would have fancied chasing down. His bowlers rarely allowed Pakistan to get out of first gear: the quick bowlers exploited the swing available early while the spinners, who were solid rather than spectacular, didn't offer the batsmen much to work with.  
 
Both of Pakistan's openers were undone while attempting reckless across-the-line shots. The big holiday crowd that had turned up was silenced but found its voice soon after when Younis Khan took Powell for three consecutive boundaries. That, however, was an aberration in a quiet period for Pakistan, tied down by Lionel Baker's steady line-and-length. Younis was cleaned up by a full, swinging delivery from Powell as he tried to get a move on. Pakistan's troubles were exacerbated when Shoaib Malik was run out after a misunderstanding with Misbah-ul-Haq.

Misbah scrapped his way to a half-century, an innings in which he rarely looked fluent, and perished while attempting to clear the long-off boundary off Nikita Miller. The run-rate continued to flounder with no boundaries for 132 balls, and it was not until the introduction of the friendly part-time gifts from Sarwan in the 38th over that the shackles were released.

"Afridi, please don't disappoint today" said a poster held up by a young fan, and, for a brief while, he didn't. He crunched Sarwan down the ground for a four before dispatching a leg-side full toss over midwicket. Kamran Akmal was playing a calm, polished knock at the other end, and Pakistan were beginning to find their feet with the partnership realising 50 runs quickly. But they made a mistake by not taking the remaining Powerplay when their last two recognised batsmen were looking settled.

Both batsmen were dismissed soon after and the final Powerplay was left to the tail-enders. Some big hitting from the late order, led by Tanvir - who slammed three boundaries off a Taylor over - lifted Pakistan. At that point West Indies clearly held the advantage but in the end it was a case of so near yet so far.



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