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Windies, Pakistan offer unpredictable opener
Simon Evans | March 12, 2007 20:52 IST
Two of the most inconsistent sides in international cricket open what should be an unpredictable World Cup when hosts West Indies face Pakistan on Tuesday.
Brian Lara's men had been showing signs of improvement in recent months but Friday's nine-wicket warm-up defeat to India was a reminder that they are a team that can easily press the self-destruct button.
Lara was one of only three batsmen to make double figures as his team were skittled out for just 85 and the skipper conceded his team had a "chronic" tendency towards batting collapses.
Although demanding greater application and focus from his batsmen and more intensity from his bowlers, Lara has also defended his team from critics who suggest they have a carefree attitude to the game.
"This a team that over the past few years has beaten everyone else and we have played some very good cricket but we have been unpredictable," he said while conceding his team have to learn how to cope better with pressure.
A capacity crowd at Sabina Park in the Jamaica capital will provide plenty of pressure and record-holding batsman Lara will have to cope with more than his share.
He is the main source of runs for the Caribbean side and is also keen to crown his years of captaincy with a successful tournament.
The good news for Lara is that, prior to the debacle against India, two of his frontline batsmen - Jamaicans Marlon Samuels and Chris Gayle - both produced confident knocks against Kenya - Samuels retiring after reaching his century.
Pace bowlers Jerome Taylor and Daren Powell have looked lively in net practice in the past week and will be expected to provide the penetration that has been lacking at times for Lara's side.
Group D opponents Pakistan were roundly beaten in both a Test and one-day series in South Africa but then cruised to a seven-wicket win over those same opponents in their warm-up on Friday.
Pakistan's preparations suffered a blow with the late withdrawal of fast bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif through injury, but replacements Mohammad Sami and Yasir Arafat have slotted in well.
"With the loss of those two our chances have reduced but other bowlers have come in and worked hard. Pakistan have played in the past without Shoaib and Asif," said captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, who added that the warm-up wins over Canada and South Africa have been useful.
"All the players are in good touch and all the main batsmen have scored runs in the warm-up games," he said.
Pakistan beat the West Indies in a home series in late 2006 but Inzamam said it would be a tougher challenge in the Caribbean.
"Beating West Indies at home is certainly not going to be easy".
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