The West Indies pace quartet eviscerated Pakistan, taking advantage of the extra movement provided by the 10:30am start to deliver a barrage of brutish short balls.
If there was a little fortune to the first wicket, Imam-ul-Haq strangled down the leg side, the West Indies immediately recognised how pace and bounce could upend the norms of recent ODI cricket.
And so Andre Russell, whose return to the side has been powered by his remarkable T20 hitting, delivered short balls from his first 16 deliveries, including two which Fakhar Zaman and Haris Sohail were not able to evade.
Russell’s three overs, shortened by a minor injury to his lower leg, changed the entire feel of the game. Suddenly, this felt more like a Test match in the 1980s than a modern ODI.
Barely two months ago, the West Indies skittled England for 113 in St Lucia. The template for this destruction was similar, a cocktail of relentless short balls interspersed with surprise yorkers. Oshane Thomas got 5-21 then; this time, his 4-27 cemented the impression he has made during a compelling start to his one-day international career.
While the West Indies are one of just two teams in the World Cup without a wrist spinner, they have an abundance of pace instead, channeling the style of the sides who won the first two World Cups in England. They claimed six wickets through short balls alone.
“Andre Russell led the way, bowling aggressive and fast. The Pakistani guys didn’t like it. So I just picked up where he left off really,” said Thomas, suggesting that the West Indies might just have the most hostile pace bowling in the competition. “I would say yes. Shannon [Gabriel] is still on the bench, a 90 miles per hour bowler; we didn’t play Kemar Roach.”
The upshot was Pakistan’s second lowest ODI total in the World Cup, all the more remarkable for coming after they reached 297 in each game and 340 four times out of four against England. Some tame shots – Babar Azam’s loose drive after earlier being dropped was uncharacteristic – could not detract from the force of this West Indies performance.
Having scored 421 against New Zealand in their last warm-up game, now the West Indies mocked the notion that their bowling was their weaker suit. As Chris Gayle helped the West Indies gallivant to their target, giving their run rate a hearty boost, the only snag was that Darren Bravo made a duck to continue his recent poor form, falling in an encouraging new ball spell from Mohammad Amir.
Evin Lewis, who missed this game with injury, is likely to return in lieu of either Bravo or Nicholas Pooran for Thursday’s clash with Australia at Trent Bridge. Win that, and the sense of the West Indies as legitimate World Cup contenders will be inescapable.
Yet several thousand supporters barely saw any of the game. Due to huge demand at the ticket collection counter, partly caused by delays in the post stopping fans receiving their tickets at home on time, around 2000 fans were left waiting – some for several hours – to get into the ground.
The ICC announced that all fans affected would automatically receive a refund. To prevent the problem being repeated later on in the competition, the ICC will now permit fans to print off their own tickets, as worked successfully in the warm-up matches, for subsequent games.