The Indians fans that had come early to Lord’s whooped it up in the early part of the afternoon, as Pakistan stumbled badly in pursuit of a modest Sri Lankan total. But any Pakistani supporters that stayed back for the later game soon got their chance for payback as West Indies produced a high-class performance to push India toward the abyss. Lendl Simmons took a mind-boggling catch to dismiss Gautam Gambhir and then batted beautifully for 44, but it was Dwayne Bravo that took the game away, following up 4 for 38 with a dazzling 36-ball 66.
At one stage, the required rate was climbing up to 10, but Bravo cut loose with some gorgeous orthodox strokes, targetting the straight boundary and cover with equal fluency. India lost it in two overs, with Ishant Sharma giving up 16 and Harbhajan 15 in the 17th and 18th overs of the innings. India had done well to take the game that far, but ultimately they paid the price for the poorest of starts. Having slumped to 29 for 3, they were then marooned in treacle for eight overs as the bowlers frustrated Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni. Dhoni’s 11 spanned 23 balls, and it was left to Yuvraj to inject some urgency with some stunning shots in the final overs.
Yusuf Pathan chipped in as well, but you always sensed that they were 10 or 15 short. Fidel Edwards deserved the plaudits for that, having bowled with real pace and venom for figures of 3 for 24. Kieron Pollard was tidy and it didn’t matter that Jerome Taylor, so good against Australia, was taken for 44 from his spell. The fielding was also markedly superior to the shoddiness produced against Australia and West Indies.
The defeat leaves India with no margin for error. When they won the title in 2007, they lost the Super Eights game to New Zealand before putting together a four-match winning streak. They must now beat England on Sunday and South Africa on the 16th if they aren’t to be at the mercy of other sides. Easier said than done.
Perhaps they need to rethink the team composition as well. Irfan Pathan bowled only two overs today, and if he’s seen more as a back-up option then it probably makes sense to play RP Singh or Ravindra Jadeja instead. It’s hard to fault the bowlers too much though, after the batsmen succumbed to the West Indian tactic of bowling short and fast at the body.
Earlier, Sri Lanka had provided further evidence of their credentials with a superb defence of 150. Pakistan were cruising at one stage, with runs coming easily against Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan, but the loss of Misbah-ul-Haq, Shahid Afridi and Younis Khan in rapid succession killed off their hopes. Lasith Malinga was outstanding, and there was a fine spell from Angelo Mathews with the new ball.
Pakistan are too reliant on too few individuals and need a lot better to see off New Zealand tomorrow to stay alive in the competition. Abdul Razzaq could come in, after the lifting of his ICL ban, and surely they need to look again at the out-of-sorts Salman Butt at the top of the order. Sohail Tanvir appears less than fully fit, while Umar Gul showed his quality only in patches. Fortunately for them, both Saeed Ajmal and Afridi have been superb with the ball, and that’s kept them in contention. Given New Zealand’s injury woes, they could just sneak home.
So, Sri Lanka remain the pick of the Asian bunch, while India and Pakistan face a nervous weekend. The cornered-tiger speeches might be needed in both dressing rooms if the finalists from the last edition aren’t to end up as also-rans in this one.