wo most frustrating teams of these times matched each other mistake for mistake until West Indies took the decisive advantage in the last 14 overs of their innings and the first four of the defence. Having stumbled to 167 for 3 in 36 – with one batsman retired and possibly out of the tournament – they took 143 in the remaining overs thanks to urgency shown by Denesh Ramdin,Lendl Simmons and Andre Russell. Ramdin and Simmons scored fifties at a little over run a ball, and Russell threatened the record for fastest ODI fifty with an unbeaten 42 off 13. The contest was killed pretty early in the second innings with the Pakistan batting disintegrating to 1 for 4, the worst four-wicket score in ODI history.
The first 36 overs were a classic tussle between two middling sides refusing to drive home the advantage. Pakistan dropped at least four catches, their field placements – seven-footer Mohammad Irfan at long-on during the slog – left a lot to be desired, their ground fielding was pedestrian, West Indies openers made no pretence of trying to guts it out during the opening exchanges, their set batsmen chose part-time spin of Haris Sohail to hole out to long-off to, and a general lack of urgency prevailed as their top order mostly played either-boundary-or-dot cricket.
West Indies began the match in a sea of trouble, having lost to Ireland, needing to win here to get some breathing space. Once they were asked to bat in fresh morning conditions, it was a matter of when and not if the openers would fail. Dwayne Smith was given some extra time through a drop by Nasir Jamshed, Chris Gayle wasn’t. At 28 for 2 Marlon Samuels decided he was going to hit boundaries or nothing at all. Darren Bravo, although slow, provided the stability West Indies needed, and even Samuels settled into the stand. However, with the partnership reading 75 off 16.1 overs, Samuels picked out long-off with the first ball of the new spell of Haris.
Samuels and Smith had shown great self-respect in refusing to live off the Pakistan fielders’ generosity, but the increments had been big enough to take West Indies close to the last 20 overs with wickets in hands. Ramdin then played an innings that began to take the game away decisively. Ramdin disturbed the quiet of a ’70s ODI – lethargic fielding, lack of urgency in the batting – with the first modern play of the match. There was a certain intent to how he batted. Short-arm pulls, slog-sweeps, pinched singles, they threatened to run away with the game with 48 runs in 5.5 overs. Ramdin then showed more intent by calling for a Powerplay.
The next twist, a hamstring injury to Bravo minutes after he had been reprieved by Shahid Afridi. As he was taken off the field on the drinks cart, West Indies had to exercise some caution. Only 16 came in the Powerplay, but they didn’t lose any wicket. Pretty soon Ramdin rediscovered his range, only to hit Haris straight down long-off’s throat moments after bringing up his fifty.
West Indies were now effectively 194 for 5 with 11 overs to go. Darren Sammy, a rare modern West Indies cricketer, didn’t look in touch, but Simmons kept going. He had scored a hundred against Ireland to rescue West Indies. Now his job was to ensure his team didn’t lose control of the game once again. He targeted Haris sensibly to expose the lack of a fifth specialist bowler, hitting him for a six and two fours in the 42nd over. Some brilliance followed from Pakistan as Sohail Khan and Irfan conceded a total of 15 in 43rd, 44th and 45th overs. There was pressure, Simmons ramped Riaz straight to third man in the next over, but Irfan dropped him too.
Although Simmons added only six to his 44, Russell punished every little error in length by Pakistan. His hitting was flat and powerful. He has now scored 157 off 78 in his last four innings. His three fours and four sixes here took his boundary tally to 15 and 11 in the last four digs. He kept clearing his front leg and swinging, with Pakistan helping him by not bowling yorkers. They chose fancy variations over the yorkers, which had effectively slowed India down in Adelaide. As if it had not been enough to have to take four wickets twice over.
First of those reprieves came courtesy Jamshed, who had been brought in to strengthen the batting and let Younis Khan bat at his preferred No. 3. A worse day on the field is hard to imagine. When he dropped Smith, he injured his hand, didn’t field for the rest of the innings, and lasted two balls, playing a limp pull in the first over of the chase. Younis was facing the new ball yet again. Younis was all at sea again. Jerome Taylor got him with an outswinger, and Haris soon cut him straight to point to make it three ducks.
When Ajmal Shehzad edged Jason Holder to gully, the game was over. There was only one twist left. Umar Akmal and Sohaib Maqsood delayed the end without threatening to alter it, usually Misbah-ul-Haq’s constituency.