Pakistan take on Windies today
The much-anticipated knock-out phase of the World Cup is set for a cracking start as unpredictable Pakistan take on a youthful West Indian side in the first quarter-final in Dhaka today.
More than a semi-final place will be at stake for Pakistan, who missed out on a second-round place in the last World Cup and has since been plagued by many controversies including a morale-shattering match fixing scandal.
Shahid Afridi’s men will take the field as firm favourite having already creating a big sensation in the tournament with their win over defending champions Australia in their last round-robin match to top the group.
Australia’s four-wicket defeat to them was their first in 34 matches in a period spanning 12 years, which Afridi said was a big help for them to boost confidence before the knock-out phase.
‘We have won a game before quarter-final against Australia, which is a big achievement for us,’ Afridi said in his pre-match briefing on Tuesday.
‘Definitely expectations are more now and I think we are feeling more confident. It’s a good sign before quarter-final,’ said Afridi, who is leading Pakistan from the front having already taken 17 wickets, the highest by any bowler in the tournament.
Afridi indicated that Pakistan were unlikely to break the winning combination, which means it could be the end of career for their star pace bowler Shoaib Akthar if they lost.
Changes, however, are obvious in the line-up of their opponents West Indies, who went into their last game against India without their key players Chris Gayle and Kemar Roach.
Gayle was resting after an abdominal strain while Roach felt unwell because of viral fever and a stomach infection and their absence was felt with West Indies losing the game by 80 runs to finish fourth in the group.
Both Gayle and Roach returned to training on Tuesday and are almost certain to play, their skipper Darren Sammy said.
‘Both Gayle and Roach participated in our practice today [Tuesday]. So obviously everybody is in good spirit,’ he said.
‘From my observation, I liked the way he [Chris Gayle] was hitting the ball and moving his feet. I know Chris is a committed fellow. He will do whatever the team needs to win the game. I have no doubt he will do the best that is required for the team,’ he said.
West Indies may also bring back their experienced campaigner Shivnarine Chanderpaul after their middle-order was exposed to England and India’s spin bowling in the two previous games.
‘Like I said, he is part of the team. He has a big role to play in the quarter-final. Most likely, we will see him in tomorrow’s game,’ said Sammy, who thinks Pakistan’s spinner is also a big threat for them.
‘Their captain has been the leading wicket-taker in the tournament with 17 wickets. I think we should pay attention to that,’ Sammy said.
‘They have two off-spinners and a left-arm spinner. We watched them play. We know what we are going to face. It is up to our batsmen to put up a good performance out there and whoever gets the start should carry on,’ the all-rounder said.
Courtesy of New Age