Pacers bounce out Pakistan for massive win

West Indies launched their World Cup 2019 campaign with a thumping seven-wicket victory over Pakistan, orchestrated by the pacers and garnished with a typical Chris Gayle fifty, at Trent Bridge on Friday. After bouncing out Pakistan for a lowly 105 inside 22 overs – their second-lowest in World Cups – the Caribbean side completed the formalities in 13.4 overs to pick up their first points in the competition.

Gayle set the pace for a modest chase, with West Indies scoring at an average of 7 an over until the opener was around. He kicked-started the innings with a couple of boundaries off Hassan Ali – first one off an edge, luckily flying over the keeper’s head, and the second through third man. The Pakistan pacer sent down two full deliveries in his following over, and the left-handed opener duly smacked them both into the stands straight down the ground. He tried to cramp up Gayle for room in his third over – the sixth of West Indies’ innings – and the opener slashed hard to fetch another boundary in the third man region. Up next was Hassan Ali, who went for a short ball, but Gayle pulled it fiercely for yet another four.

On either side of this battle though, that Gayle was bossing hands down, Mohammad Amir struck twice to give Pakistan fans a little something to cheer about for the first time in the day. Shai Hope managed to find the gap once but top-edged to the left of mid-off while taking the aerial route for the next. Mohammad Hafeez covered a fair bit of ground but never for a moment took his eyes off the ball, and Pakistan reaped the reward. An iffy Darren Bravo played three balls before edging the fourth one to Babar Azam at second slip to depart without troubling the scorers.

Gayle nearly single-handedly drove West Indies’ chase forward. Wahab Riaz was next introduced into the attack and began with a maiden against Gayle, but that was that. The 39-year-old kicked off his second over with a six down the ground before cutting and pulling the next two for more boundaries. He raised his half-century off just 33 deliveries.

It was Amir again who brought Pakistan some respite, with the big wicket of Gayle this time. Having hurt his back in the Riaz over, the opener top-edged a length ball to backward point for a sitter that reduced West Indies to 77 for 3 at the end of 11 overs. The damage, though, had already been done.

Riaz continued to be expensive, with Nicholas Pooran taking him on in the 12th over for a six and a four. He raised the 100 for West Indies with another boundary off the comeback man in his following over, before thwacking the short-ball over midwicket fence to notch up the winning runs.

Earlier in the day, the Caribbean side came out with a simple but very effective short-ball tactic after opting to bowl first, and succeeded in taking eight of the ten wickets with balls directed at the body. Despite being the most expensive of them all, skipper Holder and Thomas shared seven wickets between them, while Carlos Brathwaite was the sole bowler deployed to go empty on the wickets column.

Imam-ul-Haq was the first causality, bitterly disappointed with himself after he gloved a short ball down the leg-side to Hope behind the stumps. Even before Pakistan could recover, Andre Russell bounced out Fakhar Zaman and Haris Sohail in his opening spell to leave them reeling at 45 for 3 at the end of ten overs. Babar Azam got a fortuitous reprieve when on 12, but the Pakistan batsman failed to make the most of the lifeline as Thomas struck with the first ball of his second over, inducing an outside edge. However, it was Hope who stood out in this dismissal for the spectacular catch he pulled off parallel to the ground.

New batsman Mohammad Hafeez hit back strongly with back-to-back boundaries in the same over, but negligible support at the other end meant he couldn’t cut loose either. Holder returned to the attack after the drinks break and struck gold, twice. Hope took the caught-behind appeal against Sarfraz Ahmed upstairs immediately after being turned down, and was vindicated – the replays revealed a faint nick off the batsman’s gloves as the Pakistan skipper looked to glance the short delivery down the leg-side. Off the final ball of the over, Imad Wasim miserably failed with a half-hearted pull that he could only top-edge to the right of Chris Gayle at first slip.

Pakistan’s faint hopes of crawling to a respectable score were solely pinned on Hafeez, but the senior pro who had seen the batting order batting crumble from the other end, learnt nothing. He took his eyes off a very similar, well-directed short ball, trying to evade the ball, and top-edged it to long leg where Sheldon Cottrell plucked a diving catch. On a comeback trail, Wahab Riaz hit a few lusty blows but it was too little too late in the day for Pakistan.

Brief scores: Pakistan 105 in 21.4 overs (Fakhar Zaman 22, Babar Azam 22; Oshane Thomas 4-27, Jason Holder 3-42)lost to West Indies 108/3 in 13.4 overs(Chris Gayle 50, Mohammed Amir 3-26) by seven wickets.

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