Cricket: Champions' Trophy - England next as Lara gets back on the runway

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The Independent Online
The West Indies may be in turmoil, but they proved too good for Pakistan yesterday. Derek Pringle, in Sharjah, saw them regain some self-respect after a humiliating Test-series defeat.

When great dynasties fall, they can do so with either a whimper or a bang. Last week, when 15 years of West Indies domination was unequivocally ended in Karachi, with their first series whitewash for 69 years, the retort was heard all around the cricketing world.

Australia may have been the first team to show the West Indies they were mortal, but Pakistan have been the first to show them what it is like to wake up wearing paupers' rags.

It may not last, for few, save South Africa, have been able to rival Pakistan on their own hard-baked soil. Nevertheless, humiliation is not a word that has been in the Caribbean vocabulary since Australia thrashed them in 1974-75, and they are not taking kindly to it with.

Confronted with a fragile batting line-up and an ageing bowling attack, old inter-island squabbles, buried during the heady years of domination, have returned.

Courtney Walsh, the current but by no means established captain, admitted that many would probably consider the West Indies second favourites to England when their Caribbean tour begins next month.

"I know a lot of people have written us off already," he said. "But the series will be good for us and I'm looking forward to it. It will be a great test of character to prove to people that one bad tour is not the end of us."

A consummate professional, as well as a decent man, Walsh's tether has recently been tested more by his own than by any opponent. Denying that there is a split between him and Brian Lara, Walsh pledged himself, if selected, to play against England irrespective of who was captain. Ironically, his chances of retaining the job will probably rest on the outcome of today's one-day match against England.

However, if Adam Hollioake's one-day specialists were perhaps expecting to put another nail in the coffin of West Indies cricket, yesterday's match against Pakistan in the Champions' Trophy, revealed that the corpse, far from being laid out, is sitting bolt upright.

Aided and abetted by a lamentable fielding performance from Wasim Akram's team, the West Indies batting, recently vilified by team manager Clive Lloyd, looked a different outfit. It helps when Lara returns to something near his best, but there were still signs that West Indies unsubtle brand of cricket, particularly their pace bowling, is ill-suited to the shorter game.

Mind you, there is not much a cove can do when Shahid Afridi, Pakistan's teenage pinch-hitter, keeps clearing the ropes and opening bowler Franklyn Rose will have found last night's learning process particularly painful.

Lara has been having a lean time of it with the bat and when he first came in yesterday, he clucked and scratched about like a newly-hatched chick. What was plain is that he needed to stick at the crease.

As the overs went by the precision and the audacious power returned in spectacular fashion. Like Sachin Tendulkar in England's first match, Lara had little trouble in middling the ball as it got soft - a source of great problems to many - and his 88 took just 80 balls, including three sixes.

Only Saqlain Mushtaq troubled him and his unique off-spin is as alchemic as Mushtaq Ahmed's wrist-spin. Unless they plan to get him out early, England will have to ensure their batting does not fall away, as it did against India.

Playing half a dozen all-rounders is fruitless if they are going to play like tail-enders and Hollioake may be better off playing another specialist bowler. It may be something he is forced to do if Mark Ealham's shoulder, hurt while fielding against India, has not cleared up.

Another conundrum that Wednesday's win over India threw up is where best to bat Graham Thorpe. Being a batsman who is brilliant at working the ball into gaps, Thorpe needs to go in earlier rather than later. He should have gone in at No 4 instead of Graeme Hick, who struggled to return the strike to Alec Stewart.

With England deliberately picking a young mobile side it was perhaps ironic that Wednesday's top performers, Stewart and Matthew Fleming, were the senior citizens of the side.

At 34 and 33 respectively, both could be feeling the strain by the time the World Cup comes around in 18 months time. At the moment though, both are showing the younger players just exactly what it takes to compete at this level, something that Walsh's endeavours apart, has not been happening for the West Indies.

sharjah scoreboard

West Indies won toss

WEST INDIES

P A Wallace c Inzamam b Saqlain 32

S C Williams c Wasim b Shahid 77

B C Lara c Azhar b Wasim 88

C L Hooper st Moin b Saqlain 17

P V Simmons c Aamir b Saqlain 22

S Chanderpaul not out 16

F A Rose b Wasim 2

D Williams c and b Wasim 0

R N Lewis not out 1

Extras (b1, lb6, w12, nb1) 20

Total (for 7, 50 overs) 275

Fall: 1-81, 2-160, 3-217, 4-243, 5-266, 6-271, 7-271.

Did not bat: M V Dillon, *C A Walsh.

Bowling: Wasim Akram 10-0-62-3; Waqar Younis 10-0-53-0; Saqlain Mushtaq 10-0-35-3; Azhar Mahmood 10-0-61-0; Shahid Afridi 10-0-57-1.

PAKISTAN

Aamir Sohail c Lewis b Rose 17

Shahid Afridi run out 67

Saeed Anwar c Lara b Dillon 22

Ijaz Ahmed c Hooper b Lewis 12

Inzamam-ul-Haq run out 33

Akhtar Sarfraz lbw b Simmons 25

*Wasim Akram c Chanderpaul

b Walsh 22

Moin Khan run out 8

Azhar Mahmood c Simmons

b Walsh 4

Saqlain Mushtaq not out 2

Waqar Younis c Wallace b Hooper 1

Extras (lb8, w7, nb4) 19

Total (46 overs) 232

Fall: 1-24, 2-91, 3-124, 4-135, 5-178, 6-204, 7-222, 8-229, 9-230.

Bowling: Walsh 8-0-14-2; Rose 6-0-47-1; Dillon 8-0-45-1; Hooper 9-0-56- 1; Lewis 8-1-31-1; Simmons 7-0-31-1.

Umpires: C J Mitchley (SA) and B C Cooray (S Lanka).

West Indies win by 43 runs

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