SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates – The West Indies’ script was the same today.
Confidence expressed before taking the field. Explanation given after slinking off it. Abject failure sandwiched in between.
West Indies were hammered by Pakistan at the Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium, falling to a demoralizing 111-run loss in the first game of their three-match One Day International series.
West Indies captain Jason Holder had expressed the conviction that his team would improve on the performance of the Twenty20 squad which had been whitewashed 3-0. Now he has to guard against enduring a similar fate as Carlos Brathwaite’s charges.
After Babar Azam’s superlative innings of 120 had helped Pakistan to a challenging total of 284 for 9, Mohammad Nawaz suffocated the West Indies with searching spells to leave the outcome of the match more or less beyond doubt. Only Marlon Samuels (46) handled the Pakistan’s formidable attack with a degree of confidence as West Indies were cleaned up for 175.
As one of the light towers stopped functioning, there was also a lengthy delay for an hour in the first innings that had the game reduced to 49 overs a side. It was reported that one of the cables from the generator to pylon got burnt which resulted in the delay. Consequently, the target was revised as per the Duckworth/Lewis method to 287.
It was left-hand quick Mohammad Amir who bowled with ruthless efficiency upfront and dislodged Johnson Charles (20). Hasan Ali backed up his partner-in-crime by bagging the scalp of debutant Kraigg Brathwaite (14). Nawaz then ran through the ‘cream’ of West Indies’ middle order to put the home side in command.
The underperforming Darren Bravo (12), the note-less Denesh Ramdin (8), out-of-form Kieron Pollard (9) and the struggling Carlos Brathwaite (15) were his victims. The 21-year-old all-rounder combined clever flight and the arm ball to befuddle the batsmen. At the other end of the spectrum, West Indies’ dismissals indicated frailties of temperament and defence.
Wahab Riaz rounded off a great day for the hosts by shattering the stumps of Samuels with a quick delivery that was angled in. Sulieman Benn and Sunil Narine used the long handle to crunch a few hefty blows, before the visitors were bundled out.
Earlier in the day, Azam’s excellent knock and vital contributions from Sharjeel Khan (54) and Sarfraz Ahmed (35) ensured Pakistan harvested a noteworthy total. After West Indies won the toss and opted to bowl, Sharjeel enthralled the crowd with his pyrotechnics to lay a solid platform. He was particularly severe on trundlers Brathwaite and Holder, who didn’t help their cause by offering the 27-year-old ample width.
Just when it felt as if Sharjeel had gauged the pace of the wicket quite well, he was dimissed by Benn. The slow left-arm orthodox bowler tempted Sharjeel to swipe at a tossed up delivery across the line, but the southpaw opener could only top edge to short third man. Narine followed it up by eliciting an outside edge off Shoaib Malik’s forward prod and for Benn to grab a well-judged catch at first slip.
It was Azam who calmed the nerves in the Pakistan camp by gluing the innings together. He largely chose calculation over taking risks by nurdling and nudging West Indies’ slow bowlers around. It was only in the 33rd over when Azam upped the tempo by crunching a four and a six off Pollard.
He also joined forces with Sarfraz to share a brisk stand of 99 for the fourth wicket. The wicketkeeper-batsman allowed the ball to come at him and played under his eye-line to pick up sharp singles and twos.
The duo also survived a few close calls. In the 15th over of the innings, West Indies took a review after the on-field umpire turned down Benn’s vociferous appeal for an LBW against Azam.
HawkEye projected that the ball would clip the top of the stumps and the umpire’s call stayed. It has to be noted that the DRS rule for LBW has been changed for the side of the stumps, but not with regard to top of the stumps. His partner at the other end, Sarfraz, was the beneficiary of a stumping chance missed by Ramdin in the 21st over.
Eventually, Sarfraz fell to an ugly slog off Holder’s bowling; a welcome return to the wickets column for the captain. Azam, however, continued to play with an air of calmness to net his first ODI hundred. It is a testament to his resolve that he didn’t lose his composure despite West Indies chipping away at the home side’s batting line-up. Once he crossed the three-figure mark, Azam landed some powerful blows into the downtown territories before he was prised out by Brathwaite. The visitors then picked up a slew of wickets in the slog overs to restrict Pakistan to some extent.
Benn was the best bowler on show for the tourists. He used subtle variations of flight and turn to plant seeds of doubt in the batsmen. Shannon Gabriel, who bowled with a fair amount of pace, was rewarded with the scalp of Azhar. In fact, it was a peach of a delivery from the sturdy pacer as he angled it in before it nipped away off the seam to catch the outside edge first ball of the match.
Barring a few misses, West Indies were good in the field. The point was evidenced by Pollard showing exemplary fielding skills at the long on boundary to end Azam’s splendid effort. He projected his hand out to pluck the catch, but the momentum seemed to be taking him over the boundary rope. The all-rounder, though, showed the required presence of mind to lob the ball in the air as he crossed the rope before he again caught it.