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Something to cheer about, at last

Pakistan cricket team finally overtook the West Indies in the ICC ODI Team Rankings to strengthen its eighth position by beating the Caribbean side

Something to cheer about, at last

The desperate Pakistan cricket team finally overtook the West Indies in the ICC ODI Team Rankings to strengthen its eighth position by beating the Caribbean side by 2-1. It was the first step towards direct qualification for the 2019 World Cup in England.

Currently Pakistan are 8th with 90 points, Bangladesh on seventh with 92, while the West Indies are 9th with 83 points.

Hosts England and the seven top-ranked teams on the ICC ODI team rankings by the cut-off date of September 30 this year will qualify directly for the World Cup 2019.

The last four sides on the ODI team rankings and six teams from the World Cricket League will play in the World Cup Qualifier in 2018. The top two sides from this event will complete the 10-team line-up for the World Cup.

Critics believe the West Indian side was one of their weakest team ever and with this performance it would be difficult for them to reach the World Cup directly.

Pakistan’s head coach Mickey Arthur remains hungry for successes. He wants Pakistan team to be in the first four in ODI rankings. After winning the ODI series, Arthur in an interview said that Pakistani players had been playing 20th-century cricket and playing too many dot balls. “We need real power hitters for the power play overs, especially in the death overs,” he said.

After winning the Twenty20 series by 2-1, it was expected that Pakistan would win the ODI series easily as West Indies’ leading players like Darren Sammy, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Chris Gayle and Sunil Narine were not available due to their Indian Premier League (IPL) commitment.

But Surprisingly West Indies, despite lack of experience, won the first ODI by four wickets while chasing a huge target of 308. It was the first occasion when West Indies successfully chased a target of more than 300.

Pakistan bounced back strongly and won the second match convincingly by 74 runs. Young Babar Azam scored his fourth century against West Indies — he also became the highest run getter in the first 25 ODIs of career with 1306 runs. The previous highest was by Jonathan Trott, who scored 1280 runs in the same number of matches.

The third ODI was equally important for both teams as the losing side was to drop to the ninth position.

The home side doesn’t have an impressive record against Pakistan as it had not won an ODI series in last 26 years against the Green-shirts. West Indies last won an ODI series against Pakistan in 1991, under the leadership of Richie Richardson in Pakistan.

But Pakistan’s record in bilateral series deciders since 2003 was quite poor as before the third ODI, in 14 series-deciding final matches, the Green-shirts had lost 12 and won just two — against Zimbabwe. But this time Pakistan batsmen held their nerves and chased the target of 233.

Muhammad Hafeez was the most successful batsman of the ODI series with 201 runs, with the help of two fifties, averaging 67, while Jason Mohammad with 151 runs scored most runs for West Indies. His average was 75.50 and he hit two half-centuries.

Pakistan fast bowler Hasan Ali and West Indies spinner Ashley Nurse took six wickets each, averaging 18.33 and 25.50, respectively.

The series was wicketkeeper-batsman Sarfraz Ahmed’s first as the ODI captain. Pakistan team needs an aggressive captain and Sarfraz has the guts of rebuilding Pakistan team.

Teenage leg-spinner Shadab Khan could be the find of the West Indies tour as he took 10 wickets in Twenty20 series and received man-of-the-series award.

The selectors picked 18-year-old Shadab on the basis of his performance in Pakistan Super League second edition. Shadab took nine wickets for defending champions Islamabad United.

Skipper Sarfraz expects Shadab to play Test matches in near future if he continues his performance.

Some players are outstanding in domestic matches but when they get chance in international circuit, they collapsed. Openers Kamran Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad are among them. Both were selected in the ODI squad on the basis of their performance in Pakistan Super League (PSL) but they failed to do well during the tour.

Ahmed Shehzad scored 75, while Kamran Akmal 68 runs in the ODI series, averaging 25 and 22, respectively.

After comprehensive wins in the T20 and ODI series, Pakistan are confident that they will thrash West Indies in the farewell Test series of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan.

Khurram Mahmood

Sports Khurram Mahmood

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