Spearheading the spin assault: Shahid Afridi
SKIPPER Shahid Afridi led from the front as formidable Pakistan crushed the West Indies by 10 wickets to reach the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1999 yesterday. Afridi spearheaded a spin assault on the flat-footed West Indies batsmen who crashed for 112 in 43.3 overs, a target Pakistan surpassed easily in the 21st over at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium.The leg-spinner, already the tournament’s leading wicket-taker, took his tally to 21 as he finished with four for 30, including two wickets off successive balls.Off-spinners Mohammad Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal chipped in with two wickets each as the West Indies collapsed in a heap after electing to take first strike on a sluggish pitch.Hafeez then shone with the bat, stroking an unbeaten 61 off 64 balls in the company of opening partner Kamran Akmal (47 not out) to ensure the day-night match ended in quick time.The emphatic victory could hand Afridi’s men a mouth-watering semi-final against arch-rivals India in Mohali on March 30, if the co-hosts beat Australia in Ahmedabad today.The Pakistanis, who won the World Cup in 1992 under Imran Khan, last entered the semi-finals of the premier event in England in 1999 when they finished runners-up behind Australia.It has been a remarkable comeback for a team that had been knocked out in the first round of the previous edition in the Caribbean four years ago.The West Indies collapsed in spectacular fashion after Darren Sammy won the toss and elected to take first strike.Veteran Shivnarine Chanderpaul, brought back after being left out for the previous match against India, was the only batsman to defy the spinners with a grim unbeaten 44 off 106 balls.The West Indies were reduced to 71-8 before a 40-run stand between Kemar Roach and Chanderpaul helped the former champions surpass their lowest World Cup total of 93 against Kenya in Pune in 1996.The West Indies never recovered from the disastrous start when they lost three top batsmen, Chris Gayle, Devon Smith and Darren Bravo, by the sixth over.Gayle, returning to the side after recovering from an abdominal strain, made eight when he drove Umar Gul uppishly to mid-off where Afridi accepted an easy catch.Hafeez, who shared the new ball with Gul, trapped Smith and Bravo leg-before in the space of four deliveries to open up the middle-order.Shell-shocked by the early reverses, the West Indies groped to 36-3 after 15 overs, with Chanderpaul making just three runs off his first 27 deliveries.Ramnaresh Sarwan and Chanderpaul put on 42 for the fourth wicket before Afridi destroyed the innings with three wickets in 11 balls.Sarwan, dropped by Gul at mid-off when he was on 14, added 10 more to his score before Afridi gained revenge by having him caught at point by Umar Akmal.The Pakistan captain then removed potential dangerman Kieron Pollard (one), caught behind by wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal, and claimed Devon Thomas leg-before first ball.Sammy prevented a hat-trick, but the West Indian skipper lasted only three deliveries before he was leg-before to Ajmal.Ajmal also bowled new batsman Davendra Bishoo later in the same over to continue the West Indies slide.
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