ABU DHABI // Shivnarine Chanderpaul was the second West Indian to score what looked like being a match-winning century only to finish on the losing side as "hosts" Pakistan clinched the three-match one-day international series with a game to spare in front of a capacity Zayed Cricket Stadium crowd.
The exiled Pakistanis' second victory was nothing like as dramatic as the first which was snatched from the jaws of defeat by a magnificent display of hitting by their wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal. But it was celebrated just as wildly by the large UAE-based crowd. These are hard times for Pakistani cricket with the Test team having been wrapped in cotton wool for the whole of 2008 and the one-day side having only limited rations in the face of political unrest in the country.
The disconsolate West Indians will feel they should have at least taken the destiny of the Fortune Cup to a decider after scoring nearly 300 in the first match and then restricting Pakistan to only 232 in the second. While they got it wrong for just one over at the death in the first, they fell short by 24 runs in their second. Each time it had looked plain sailing. Chris Gayle, the experienced Caribbean cavalier of an opener, had dominated the daytime part of the first encounter, smashing a thrilling century to set up a solid platform for victory until Akmal came and hammered a cameo 24 off only nine balls.
If the West Indies were guilty of buckling under pressure then, it was nothing compared to the way they pressed the self-destruct button in the middle of what had appeared to be a routine run chase on Friday night. Knocked off course by the loss of both openers for ducks as Sohail Tanvir embarked on a hostile spell with the new ball, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Chanderpaul repaired the damage impressively to leave their team looking at just over a run a ball in the latter part of their 50-over allocation.
With the rock-solid Chanderpaul, the Test Cricketer of the Year, pushing and prodding and capitalising on two dropped chances to move towards what turned into an inevitable century, it only required minimal acceleration from those at the other end. But only Sarwan stood his ground and he too departed one short of what would have been a richly- deserved half-century. Having tasted success, the thirsty Pakistanis are aiming for the jugular to make a clean 3-0 sweep of the series at their second home.
As the West Indies look to salvage some pride, the coach John Dyson blamed lack of preparation for the two reverses. Ahead of the tour, Dyson said he was worried that a six-week long camp for a one-match Stanford game had hampered their preparations. "We had a long travel and jet lag but we had only two days to get ready and then into the game. There was no time to recover," he said. email@example.com