West Indies and Pakistan are two cricketing nations widely known as the most unpredictable sides in white-ball cricket. There would be days when you play your best cricket against them but still end up second, there could be days you are at your worst and still be on the winning side. You expect one thing and exactly the opposite can happen.
It wasn’t much different when the two sides met at Trent Bridge today to kick-start their 2019 World Cup campaign. In a ground with small boundaries, a flat track and the history of witnessing first-innings scores in excess of 400 in last four years, Pakistan was bowled out for a paltry 105.
Winning the toss, Jason Holder went with the present conditions at the ground - a modest cloud cover - instead of the past history and asked Pakistan to bat first. Sheldon Cottrell started with a wide but the away movement on the ball was more promising for West Indies than the significance of an extra run for Pakistan.
After a decent first over from Cottrell beating Imam Ul Haq with swing, the Caribbean bowlers soon moved to the ploy of peppering the Pakistan batsmen with the short ball. The introduction of Andre Russell in as soon as the sixth over was an evident sign of their strategy. He was asked to bounce out Fakhar Zaman which he eventually did hitting him on the visor before the ball trudged onto stumps.
From there on, it was fusillade of short balls at whoever took the strike. Haris Sohail saw a ball whiz past his rib cage the very first ball he faced, Babar Azam was hit on the stomach from Cottrell to begin the next over. Three over later, Haris tried to push the ball through the covers off his backfoot but with the pace generated on the ball by Russell’s bowling arm, he could only manage an outside edge to Shai Hope behind him.
Along with the bowlers, Jason Holder was also at the top of his captaincy game. West Indies had plans of using Oshane Thomas during the middle overs but watching their opponents capitulate, Thomas got the ball in the 12th over and removed Babar Azam on the first ball of his second over pegging further Pakistan back to 62 for 4.
The rest of the batsmen gave an impression like they were batting on a Perth track from the 90s rather than a historically batting friendly pitch of Trent Bridge. A couple of catches to the wicket-keeper down the leg-side did not help (Imam being one of them at start of the innings) and Pakistan lost next five wickets for 21 runs. Wahab Riaz did have his share of fun smacking the ball around taking Pakistan’s total to the three-figure mark but it was still not even one-third of the par score at the ground.
Ashley Nurse, picked as the sole spinner in the side was not needed to bowl as Pakistan folded within 22 overs.
With the bat as well, West Indies came all guns blazing. Mohammed Amir bowled with zeal but truth to be told, Pakistan was never in the game and it was always a matter of how early West Indies finish the game. They lost three wickets in the process but never stopped the flow of swat batted strokes. Chris Gayle struck a 33-ball fifty on the way before falling to Amir, like the other two batsmen to be dismissed in the innings - Shai Hope and Darren Bravo.
Nicholas Pooran finished the game with a six in the 14th over - swatting Wahab Riaz over long-on on another short-ball in the game - stamping West Indies’ authority on the game.
The contest was largely a reminder of the 2004 Champions Trophy semifinal between the two sides where West Indies bowled out Pakistan for 131. The only difference apart from the players involved being that Pakistan themselves elected to bat first in that game.