As West Indies and Pakistan head into the fourth ODI of the five-match series at Gros Islet, there is still nothing to choose between the two teams. Not surprisingly, the series is locked 1-1, and there was hardly anything to differentiate between the sides in the third game which ended in a tie. If you want any further indication of how closely the two teams are matched, here is it –the highest score for Pakistan in the match was 75, made by their skipper Misbah-Ul-Haq. The figure was the same for West Indies – 75 by Lendl Simmons.
The similarities don’t end there. The second highest score in the game for Pakistan was 40 not out by Umar Akmal and that for West Indies was 46 by Marlon Samuels. Further, while West Indies conceded 17 extras, Pakistan’s bowlers also responded in kind, giving away 15 extras. Most strikingly, the number eleven for both teams, Wahaz Riaz and Jason Holder, remained unbeaten on 19, but it was the later who walked away with glory, leading the Windies to a come from behind tie. Ironically, it was Riaz who bowled the last over of the game, and allowed the hosts to sneak away.
Of the two teams, Pakistan would undoubtedly have been the more disappointed one since they had West Indies on the mat towards the end but allowed them to escape. In the overall context of the series though, the same problems continue to pester both Pakistan and West Indies. For West Indies, their batting remains a worry – Chris Gayle, in particular, who hasn’t even crossed double figures for a few matches now. The others too haven’t risen to the occasion. Johnson Charles, the other opener, is yet show the consistency expected of him.
Under the circumstances, the experienced middle order should have stood up to the challenge. But, apart from Lendl Simmons, the others did not show the tenacity for a fight. To his credit, the struggling Marlon Samuels did hold up one end for a prolonged period, but he should ideally have carried on after getting a start. Among the rest Darren Bravo, skipper Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard and Darren Sammy continued to disappoint. Had it not been for Holder and Sunil Narine’s heroics towards the end, West Indies might well have gone into the fourth ODI 1-2 down.
Pakistan’s batting represents a familiar story -- little or no support for their talisman leader Misbah. While the skipper top-scored again, the next best score came from the wicket-keeper batsman in the lower order. In the top three, only Nasir Jamshed has shown the affinity to construct an innings. Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez are floundering game after game. One wonders how long Pakistan can carry on with these non-performing batsmen at the top of the order since it is hurting their chances significantly. The side which sorts out its batting woes first might well end up winning this very closely contested series.
--By A Cricket Analyst