West Indies chased down 171 in 40.4 overs to get their campaign off to a winning start at The Oval. (AP Photo)
London: West Indies gathered their wits in time to fend off a resurgent Pakistan and win a tense, low-scoring Champions Trophy match by two wickets at The Oval on Friday. Despite conceding a winning target of just 171, the Pakistanis took wickets when they desperately needed them to keep the outcome in the balance right until the death.
Even when West Indies lost their eighth and last wicket and needed six more runs, victory wasn't certain until tailender Kemar Roach cut through the tension by hitting the winning runs to the point boundary off Junaid Khan.
Roach ran around the pitch in jubilation as West Indies joined India, winners over South Africa on Thursday, atop Group B. West Indies finished on 172 for 8 in 40.4 overs, after routing Pakistan for 170 in 48.
Pakistan's bowlers almost trumped West Indies' on a flat pitch offering bounce and turn. The target ought to have been a doddle for West Indies, but Mohammad Irfan, the 7-foot-2 fast bowler who turned 31 on Thursday, reduced the chasers to 15 for 2, bouncing out the in-form Johnson Charles for 9 and Darren Bravo for a duck.
Chris Gayle, the leading runscorer in Trophy history, and Marlon Samuels curbed their attacking instincts even though they shared 63 in 12 overs until Gayle lost his middle stump to Saeed Ajmal on 39.
West Indies still had the advantage, just needing a steady hand. But the menacing Wahab Riaz removed Ramnaresh Sarwan for 1, and Samuels charged and missed Mohammad Hafeez on 30 at 94 for 5.
Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo also inhibited their natural instincts to grind, and seemed set to guide the side to victory. Then Riaz got an edge off Pollard for 30, Ajmal trapped Bravo for 19 to give Pakistan hope, and revive their boisterous fans in the crowd of 20,491.
Irfan came back to get Sunil Narine for 11 but they just didn't quite have enough runs to defend in the end. The win belonged to the West Indies' stunted bowling attack. Only two specialist quicks, Roach and Ravi Rampaul, and spinner Narine were gambled on, and they delivered.
In warm but gloomy conditions that turned to drizzle in the interval, only captain Misbah-ul-Haq, with an unbeaten 96, and opener Nasir Jamshed, with 50, reached double figures.
Misbah, stranded four short of his maiden ODI century, was lucky just to get off the mark. He should have been dismissed off successive balls in the ninth over, which would have left Pakistan in an even bigger hole at 17 for 4.
Roach had knocked off the top order in taking 3 for 5 in 14 balls, and ought to have collected Misbah's wicket, too. First, Misbah was given not out lbw, West Indies appealed, and the review showed the ball would have hit the top of middle stump. But the umpire's call stood. The next ball, Misbah was caught behind by Ramdin and given out, but the wicketkeeper dropped the ball and survived on an umpire's review.
Narine, the top-ranked bowler in ODIs, stymied Pakistan's revival with 3 for 3 in the space of 10 balls. Misbah and Jamshed combined for 90 for the fourth wicket, and that triggered another collapse. From 105 for 3, Pakistan lost their last seven wickets for 65 runs in 18.5 overs.
Irfan tried to help Misbah to his first century, sharing 32 for the last wicket. Misbah surpassed his previous highest ODI score, 93 not out against New Zealand in 2011, but missed a century again in his 118th match when Irfan fell for 2.