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Pakistani bowlers hold the key

By Sanjay Rajan

DHAKA, MARCH 4. If the `Famous Five' can get their act together one last time, then one sees no reason why Pakistan cannot put it across the West Indies in the day/night final of the ICC under-19 cricket World Cup at the Bangabandhu National Stadium here on Friday.

If they do — and chances are that they will — then Pakistan will probably be the first team in the five editions so far to win the Cup based solely on its bowling abilities.

The five-man army — speedsters Riaz Afridi and Imran Pasha, off-spinners Salman Qadir (the second son of leg-spin wizard Abdul Qadir) and Tariq Mahmood and leg-spinner Mansoor Amjad — has restricted every opposition to under 200, making the job easy for its batsmen.

Pakistan coach Aaqib Javed agreed that his side's batting, which is susceptible under pressure, is a cause for concern. It had faltered in the chase of a none-too-difficult 197 against England in the Super-League, its only defeat in the championship. Pakistan also endured several anxious moments before achieving the target of 170 in the semifinal against India.

It is probably because of this that Pakistan intends to bat first, toss favouring, that is. It also holds the psychological edge over the West Indies, having beaten Denesh Ramdin & Co. by 163 runs in the league phase. Pakistan put on 251 and shot out the West Indies for 88, in what was the only occasion that it batted first here.

"Cricket is a funny game. That clash was early in the championship and the conditions were very different. The West Indies has adapted very well since then," said Javed, the former Test speedster. "My boys have rested well and are raring to go. The lower-order has been bailing us out. It's time the top-half fires." This is Pakistan's second appearance in the final. It had lost to host Australia in the title-clash of the 1988 edition.

West Indies coach Clyde Butts said his lads have put the loss in the preliminary phase behind them. Butts, a former Test off-spinner, felt that a lot will depend on the kind of start his openers provide. "Moreover, at least three of the top six batsmen will have to come good if West Indies has to hold sway."

Butts said, "The boys should derive enough inspiration from the fact that it was Pakistan that they beat in the final of the under-15 World Cup in England four years ago."

Seven from that triumphant side are part of this team: 'keeper-bat Ramdin, batting mainstay Assad Fudadin, openers Xavier Marshall and Tishan Maraj, all-rounder Lendl Simmons and speedsters Ravi Rampaul and Lionel Baker. The experience of having been in the big stage before should come to their aid in the crunch. From the Pakistan lot then, only batsman Adnan Zaheer and 'keeper-bat Zulqarnain Haider have graduated to this level.

Butts is banking heavily on Ramdin and Fudadin, who did the star-turn in the semifinal, to tide over the crucial middle-overs. "The two are good players of spin and have first-class experience behind them."

The bowling department looks up to Rampaul. The speedster, who had a short stint with the senior team, made a huge impact in the semifinal against England, where he took three for 27 from 7.1 overs.

Simmons, who operated first change in the last game, is a crafty slow medium-pacer with the ability to put a batsman in two minds. The spin department is, however, weak.

This is West Indies' maiden entry into the final. And if it succeeds, it will become only the second team after India to have triumphed at all three levels of Cup play. And that should be motivation enough.

The teams (from):

Pakistan: K. Latif (capt), M. Amjad, F. Alam, R. Afridi, S. Qadir, J. Mirza, Z. Haider (wk), A. Ali, I. Pasha, W. Riaz, A. Zaheer, A. Iqbal, U. Saeed & T. Mahmood.

West Indies: D. Ramdin (capt & wk), K. Edwards, A. Fudadin, B. Yearwood, X. Marshall, L. Simmons, R. Rampaul, J. Augustus, R. Bachan, M. Matthew, L. Baker, Z. Khan, T. Maraj & L. Sebastian.

Umpires: J. Lloyds & P. Parker. Third umpire: B. Jerling. Match referee: J. Morrison.

Hours of play (IST): 1 p.m. to 4.30 p.m., 5.15 p.m. to close.

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