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Pakistan favourite against stumbling West Indies
DHAKA—Pakistan takes momentum and confidence into tomorrow’s first World Cup quarterfinal against a West Indies team that is lacking both. Pakistan sprung a surprise by finishing atop Group A and relegating Australia to third place by ending the three-time defending champion’s 34-match unbeaten run in the World Cup. West Indies won its three matches against the lower-ranked sides in Group B, but was beaten by the three higher-ranked teams and threw away winning positions in its last two games. Against England, the West Indies went from 222-6 to 225 all out chasing 245, and in Sunday’s final group match against India, the last seven wickets fell for 34 runs.
“The good thing is that it’s not the knockout stage,” captain Darren Sammy said of the group stage failures. “If that happens (from now) then we will be going home. “It is a worrying thing for us but I still back the caliber of players we have. Once we put our heads down and play each ball on its merit we could come up with better shots. That’s something we must correct and correct very quickly.” West Indies haven’t been helped by injuries, in particular to key batsman Chris Gayle who missed the game against Ireland with abdominal strain and was rested against India as a precaution. “I know Chris and he won’t pass up an opportunity to play in a World Cup quarterfinal,” Sammy said. “I don’t think he has played in the World Cup quarterfinals. I know he will come out and give his all for the team.”
Fast bowler Kemar Roach also sat out the India match, but is expected to be fit to face Pakistan. That could leave the West Indies selectors with a tricky decision to make after Ravi Rampaul came in for his World Cup debut against India and collected his first five-wicket haul in one-day internationals. Pakistan, on the other hand, seems unlikely to be tempted to tinker with its lineup after the four-wicket win over Australia on Saturday. Afridi’s team came into the tournament having lost three players to long-term bans following the spot-fixing scandal in England last year, but opened the World Cup with a thumping win over Kenya and followed it by beating co-host Sri Lanka.
“Despite all the problems, Pakistan is blessed with talent,” captain Shahid Afridi said. “It’s because of this talent that we are a dangerous team and can win against anyone. We now hope to carry on the momentum.” The 1992 champions haven’t quite shed their reputation for inconsistency, as a 110-run loss to New Zealand testifies, and that could offer West Indies some hope going into tomorrow’s game at Dhaka’s Sher-E-Bangla Stadium. The Windies also have the benefit of having played at the ground before, in the nine-wicket thrashing of Bangladesh, although Pakistan played two warmup games there before the tournament. Victory for Pakistan could mean a semifinal against fierce rival India at Mohali, but Afridi insisted he hasn’t thought that far ahead. “Our focus is on the quarterfinal,” he said. “First we have a must-win match against a dangerous opponent.” (AP)
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