Confident Pakistan to take on struggling Windies

Mirpur: A rampaging Pakistan go into the cricket World Cup quarterfinals against a struggling West Indies here tomorrow, hoping to continue their winning run and take a step closer to the coveted title.

Pakistan had a tumultuous build up to the World Cup with the team battling spot-fixing allegations but Shahid Afridi and his men have not allowed themselves to be distracted ny the scandal as they topped group-A with five wins in six outings.

Hugely talented but highly unpredictable, Pakistan started off with a bang before running into New Zealand`s Ross Taylor who blew them away with a breath-taking century but Afridi`s men quickly regrouped and finished the league stage with a comfortable four-wicket win over Australia.

Pakistan`s clinical display in their last match not only earned them a victory but also broke four-time champions Australia`s unbeaten streak of 34 World Cup matches and Afridi will hope for an encore tomorrow.

For Pakistan, former captain Younis Khan has been the cog of their wheel, while Test skipper Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal also chipped in nicely, scoring 192 and 211 runs at an average of 48 and 52.75.

Youngster Asad Shafiq also has shone in the two games he played in the World Cup averaging 124. But Pakistan`s opening partnership has been a worry.

Both Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad have failed to give Pakistan a start, which has put undue pressure on the middle-order.

Afridi too has failed with the bat scoring just 65 runs in six games and the captain will hope to strike form in tomorrow`s match.

The skipper, however, has been very effective with his leg-breaks and currently is the leading bowler in the tournament with 17 wickets. Swing bowler Umar Gul also has been among wickets taking 13 scalps.

The predicament for the 1992 champions would be Gul`s pace partner. While Shoaib Aktar has not been at his best, Wahab Riaz have been expensive against Australia giving away 39 runs in six overs taking a wicket.

Afridi said beating Australia has boosted their confidence and they are now focused on their quarterfinal match against West Indies.

"We knew that beating Australia would be very important for us and this win has enhanced our image, sending a good signal to the cricket world that we can win despite our difficult situation," Afridi said.

"West Indies have qualified for the quarter-finals after some good play, so we have to do well in all three departments. Our focus is on the quarter-finals, we have a must-win match against a dangerous opponent," Afridi added.

The West Indies, on the other hand, have been grappling with injuries. Key players — pacer Kemar Roach and former skipper Chris Gayle — didn`t play the crucial match against India because of illness and abdominal strain respectively.

The Caribbean team also have struggled with their form in both batting and bowling and have been inconsistent as after three consecutive wins they lost their last two games against England and India from being comfortably placed at 222-6 and 154-2 respectively at one stage.

However, the defeats didn`t spoil their quarterfinal dreams as they managed to make it to the knockout stage finishing fourth in Group B with better run-rate than Bangladesh, who also won three matches.

The two-time champions West Indies were ranked behind Bangladesh at 10th place in the ICC ranking in February and have lost 18 successive matches against the leading nations but Darren Sammy`s men would hope to raise their game in time tomorrow.

"We reached our first objective of reaching the knockout stage and we have to tighten our games quickly and produce our A game to beat Pakistan in the quarterfinals," Sammy said.

"Once we put our heads down and play each ball on its merit, we will come up with good shot. We will have good time to beat them. We have to beat Pakistan and then it will be sweet revenge to beat India at home," he added.

The West Indies have good memories of Sher-e-Bangla stadium where they bundled out Bangladesh for their lowest one-day total of 58 in the league match and romped home by nine wickets.

"We did well against Bangladesh at Dhaka and hopefully we will have the same confidence going in there on Wednesday," he said.

Teams (from):

Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (c), Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Ahmed Shahzad.

West Indies: Darren Sammy (c), Chris Gayle, Devon Smith, Darren Bravo, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Kieron Pollard, Devon Thomas, Sulieman Benn, Nikita Miller, Kemar Roach, Kirk Edwards, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Devendra Bishoo.

Umpires: Billy Bowden (NZL) and Steve Davis (AUS)

TV umpire: Daryl Harper (AUS)

Match referee: Chris Broad (ENG)

Match start: 2 pm (IST).