On another day, it might have gone another way; the boot might well have been on the opposition’s foot. Yesterday, however, Jason Holder’s West Indies kicked some butt, embarrassing Pakistan with a rapid, convincing seven-wicket defeat.
On a lively pitch in not unhelpful conditions, the West Indian pace attack exploited the vulnerability of the Pakistani batting against the short ball, dismissing them for a mere 105 runs in just 21.4 overs.
Oshane Thomas finished with four wickets for a mere 27 runs to walk away with the Man-of-the-Match award while all-rounder Andre Russell had impressive figures of 3-1-4-2. Skipper Holder claimed 3 for 42 and Sheldon Cottrell 1 for 18 while Carlos Brathwaite went wicketless. The services of spinner Ashley Nurse were not needed.
In reply, the Caribbean side were home not long after the end of the first power play, powered to 108 for 3 by Chris Gayle’s typically belligerent half-century (50) and a solid unbeaten 34 from Nicholas Pooran.
Deprived of the services of both bowling spearhead Kemar Roach and top speedster Shannon Gabriel, skipper Holder took the new ball himself along with Cottrell. The left-hander accounted for Imam-ul-Haq in the third over, caught down the leg-side. But, taking an early pasting, Holder called up Russell after just two overs at his end.
The decision changed the game. Russell saw his fifth ball cannon into Fakhar Zaman’s helmet and fall on his stumps. More importantly perhaps, the other Pakistan batsman saw their opener beaten for pace but failed to find a way to deal successfully with the West Indians’ aggressive tactic of trying to knock their heads off. Within the rules.
The Indian television moderator noted that, “a lot of the dismissals came off innocuous balls off innocuous shots.”
Rameez Raja repeatedly described his countrymen’s performance with the bat as “embarrassing” and former Pakistani stand-out Misbah-ul-Haq complained that the batsmen “had no plan in place to deal with the West Indian strategy.”
For instance, the scorecard records the experienced Mohammad Hafeez as making 16 off 24 balls, c Cottrell b Thomas. It does not show that he made a sort of half-duck out of the way of a Thomas bouncer and contrived to get the ball all the way down to deep backward square where the pacer took a good, low, diving catch.
Hope took four catches behind the wicket, flinging himself wide to his right to pouch one edge from joint top-scorer Babar Azam (22), who had a completely indefensible hoo-ha at Thomas. The other three all came off bats or gloves that their owners had failed to get out of the way on time.
Even the 39-year-old Chris Gayle got in on the act, lumbering to his right to swallow the chance when the ball looped up over the wicketkeeper off Imad Wasim’s gloves as he took evasive action against Holder.
Holder adjusted the field—there were two slips for Hafeez at one point—and changed the bowling thoughtfully although some will question his decision to withdraw Russell after only three overs despite his clearly having ruffled the Pakistani batting.
And others will point to his expensive bowling. In his second-last over, he twice went over midwicket for six as well as to the extra-cover boundary for four—off the bat of Wahab Riaz, number 10!
When the WI batted, Gayle’s first edge went over the keeper’s head and his second high over the cordon. In Hassan Ali’s next over, one edge went for four to third-man while a second dropped just short of slip.
After that, Gayle essentially got them out of the screws.
Hope went early, providing only glimpses of the form batsman who has consistently been putting opposing bowlers to the sword in recent times. He miscued a pull in Amir’s second over and was fortunate that the ball ballooned over midwicket’s head. The very next ball, he had a wild swing but made no contact, causing the Pakistanis to literally hold their heads and rue their bad luck.
Darren Bravo too continued to struggle, raising serious questions about whether he is able to earn a place on the team. Pooran looked far more confident and assured and his name will have to be mentioned when the number three position is being discussed in the selection room.
Next up for the Windies on Thursday are Australia. The venue is unchanged, the weather and pitch conditions may be similar but, for Holder and his men, Aaron Finch’s side is certain to be an entirely different proposition from the off-colour Pakistanis.
To begin with, the Aussies have the psychological advantage of an easy victory in last week’s warm-up game. Additionally, the recently reprieved David Warner and Steve Smith are anxious to show the world that they still have what it takes.
What better way to re-ingratiate themselves with the disappointed Aussie fans than by helping their side bring home the World Cup? Beating Afghanistan in their opener would mean very little but a convincing win against a side that has just won convincingly would send the right message to the others, especially the other two of the Big Three.
As they make their plans over the next few days, therefore, Holder and his bowlers will need to be mindful that there are six letters in flinch but only five in Finch.