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West Indies will play England in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy at The Oval on Saturday after beating Pakistan by seven wickets at a windswept Rose Bowl on Wednesday.
While they reached their first significant final since the 1983 World Cup with plenty to spare, it was hardly in comfort. Captain Brian Lara had to retire hurt after being hit on the back of the neck by a ball from Pakistani paceman Shoaib Akhtar. But although he did not return to the wicket or attend the post-match press conference, he should be fit for the final, almost certainly his last big match in England.
Following Lara's departure, West Indies were guided home by his vice-captain, Ramnaresh Sarwan, whose coolly controlled innings had begun with a flurry of shots that gave them momentum after a difficult start, reached 50 with the shot of the day a sumptuous straight drive back over Abdul Razzaq's head and concluded by stroking the winning run.
Pakistan gave themselves no chance by subsiding to 131 all out. What seemed a rash decision by captain Inzamam-ul-Haq to bat first in conditions that might have been designed for West Indies' clutch of fast-medium bowlers looked still worse when debutant Salman Butt fell to the third ball of the innings.
Only fellow-opener Yasir Hameed, striking some fine Caribbean-style drives, ever attained any fluency and the innings declined rapidly after he was run out attempting a second run to Dwayne Bravo. The young West Indian all-rounder also helped gun down Abdul Razzaq and took two top-order wickets with his brisk fast-medium to initiate a collapse that saw Pakistan lose their last seven wickets for 31 runs, leaving almost a quarter of their 50-over allocation unused.
With no option but attack, Inzaman threw the ball to Shoaib Akhtar, who blasted out openers Chris Gayle and Wavell Hinds in four overs of electrifying, forked-lighting pace that clocked in consistently above 90mph. His second spell accounted for Lara, a frightening moment as the West Indian captain fell to the ground and was surrounded by anxious fielders, but no other Pakistani bowler remotely matched Shoaib's menace as the end came with more than 20 overs to spare.
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