That Pakistan are slow starters at global events is not just a fact. It’s pretty much a given.
Out of the four previous World Cups this millennium, the only one that saw them win their opening game was 2011, where their opponents were Kenya. In the other, they lost by 82, 54 and 76 runs.
Even their two trysts with glory in the 50-over game – the 1992 World Cup and the 2017 Champions Trophy – kicked off with hammerings to the tune of 10 wickets (vs West Indies) and 124 runs (vs India), respectively.
This is why those believing in their omens in a certain part of the subcontinent won’t be too surprised, or sullen, even.
But Pakistan’s seven-wicket pasting to the West Indies – lasting all of 35.2 overs – came in Nottingham, at a Trent Bridge surface that has been a graveyard for bowlers in recent times.
Prior to Friday, the first innings scores in six completed ODIs at Trent Bridge since the 2015 World Cup read 349/7, 286/9, 444/3, 481/6, 268 and 340/7 – and only the two 400+ totals had proved to be victorious.
So I guess Pakistan are all set then to script their trademark script, written with ink made of mercury.
Let’s take a look at the stand-out passages of play from a rather short-lived day in Nottingham.
Fakhar Channels His Inner Jayasuriya
Like several Pakistan cricket tragi-comedies of yore, this one too had its ebb-and-flow (even if all-too-brief). No one will remember this, but they were a confident 33/1 from the first five overs after being put in to bat, and most of that was down to one man.
Fakhar Zaman has had a quiet last year and a half after his Champions Trophy final-conquering exploits against India, but on his return to England for ICC main-event action, he appeared to be catching his strides from 2017.
The tenth ball of the morning at Trent Bridge brought with it the day’s first six – and an immediate recall of one Sanath Jayasuriya. Like his fellow left-handed dasher from the subcontinent, Zaman read a length ball towards his pads virtually before it was released, and a slick whiplash of a flick sailed over the square leg boundary. It was straight out of the Jayasuriya school of batting: firm grip, astute reading, adept wristwork, and sheer timing.
There were a couple of more throwback moments – two slaps between point and extra cover – before it all ended in a 16-ball stay worth 22 runs.
The short and sweet nature of the cameo wasn’t too dissimilar to what the Sri Lankan great did more than a handful of times back in 1996, but the rest of the Pakistan lineup wasn’t keen on following up his act.
Enter the ‘Dre Russ’ Shoulder
Not in the manner that bewildered audiences and bruised bowling egos through the recently-concluded IPL summer.
The prospect of Andre Russell at Trent Bridge for West Indies’ tournament opener was an enticing one for the potential damage his iron shoulders could inflict with bat in hand. Against Pakistan on Friday, havoc was wreaked with his other suit.
Brought into the attack, to the surprise of some, in the sixth over. Quite like Jofra Archer on opening day against the South African top order, Russell found the Pakistani batsmen rattled by his unsuspecting extra yard(s) of pace.
His fifth delivery found Zaman late on an attempted pull and smacked on the grill, ala Hashim Amla at The Oval on Thursday; but unlike Amla, who had to retire himself due to a concussion, the damage to Zaman was more permanent – the ball trickled on to the stumps after the impact on the helmet.
Russell’s second over comprised of six balls – all short, all at or above 140 clicks an hour. But there was no further damage.
His third saw him deliver the good old ‘chin music’ on four successive occasions to the newly-arrived Haris Sohail, with the speed gun now beginning to show readings of 145 km/hr; the fourth was enough to consume the left-hander.
Russell’s first (and only) spell on the day ended with figures of 3-1-4-2. It was only the second time he had taken two wickets in the first 10 overs of an ODI – the last instance was in New Zealand, seven years ago.
Hope’s Leap of Faith
Fine, the catch of the tournament mantle was prized away and locked for all practical purposes on Day 1 thanks to Ben Stokes, but Match 2 gave a strong nominee for the non-superhuman takes of the summer.
Babar Azam, Pakistan’s batting lynchpin and last real ray of hope after losing three wickets in the first 10 overs, was probably feeling lucky when he saw Shimron Hetmyer grass a fairly regulation catch in the 11th over.
Azam and his skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed had added 17 off 20 balls to take Pakistan to 62/3 in 13 overs when Oshane Thomas began his second over of the morning.
The first ball was fairly innocuous; an away-swinger, but well far enough from the batsman to be bracketed under the well-directed category. But it was quick, which meant even a heavy snick from a lazy swing of Azam’s bat was enough to send the ball flying.
Along with the ball, however, flew Shai Hope, wearing the gloves for the West Indians.
WHAT A CATCH! 🔥
Shai Hope took an absolute blinder behind the stumps to send Babar Azam back for 22. https://t.co/vjpBbPKgSF
— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) May 31, 2019
It was a ‘flier’, a stunner. And dropping Azam had only cost West Indies 10 runs.
A Familiar Collapse; A ‘70s Throwback?
A major cricket tournament isn’t complete without a Pakistan side capitulating spectacularly at least once. While 62/3 in 13 overs wasn’t steady at all, it wasn’t quite hit-the-panic-button-now material.
The next 39 balls, however, saw the fall of six wickets for the addition of 21 runs – and on a surface where the average total batting first in completed matches over the last four years is 361, the winners of the last ICC ODI title were staring at a two-digit finish.
Wahab Riaz’s thrill-a-minute cameo (18 off 11 balls) spared them that ignominy, and maintained their record of never having been bowled out for under 100 in a completed World Cup game.
But what West Indies was this again?
An all-pace attack (at least the ones who were given the ball at Trent Bridge), with a quartet of bowlers – that’s excluding the part-time skills of Carlos Brathwaite – banging in a barrage of bouncers to blow out a batting lineup in a World Cup game in England.
That ‘70s Show, much?
Sure, it would be cricketingly criminal to consider mentioning Cottrell-Holder-Russell-Thomas – or any combination of four fast bowlers in the world – in the same breath as Roberts-Holding-Marshall-Garner; but for the impact on the day and the execution of an all-out attack plan, the 2019 quartet sure did provide a bit of a throwback.
Another Six-Hitting Peak for the Universe Boss
Chris Gayle has hit the most sixes in international cricket; his 520 is 44 maximums clear of next-best Shahid Afridi.
Chris Gayle has hit the most sixes in T20 cricket; his 941 is 334 maximums clear of next-best Kieron Pollard.
Chris Gayle has hit the most sixes in the IPL; his 326 is 114 maximums clear of next-best AB de Villiers.
Which made it a little surprising to not see the ‘Universe Boss’ exclusively at the top of the six-hitting charts at the World Cup despite having appeared at all four editions in the 21st century, for a total of 26 matches; he shared that summit with AB de Villiers, tied on 37 sixes.
That didn’t last too long.
It took him all of eight balls to clear the right leg and send one sailing straight back over the bowler’s head. In case you missed it, he was kind enough to provide a virtual replay – although without any timing – the very next ball.
He hit a third, too, before falling right after bringing up a 33-ball 50.
All told, Gayle has now faced 350 deliveries in ODIs this year. 42 of them have gone over the rope.
Speaking of sixes, the almost-40-year-old also registered a sixth successive 50+ score in ODIs, becoming only the eighth man to do so in the 50-over game.
Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.
Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq is not happy with his side's below-par batting effort in the first Test against England but more disappointing to him was how the visitors let England off the hook during their run chase.
Pakistan were on course to go 1-0 up in the three-match series after dominating the majority of the first Test at Old Trafford.
The likes of Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt, who too were found guilty of spot-fixing like Kaneria, have been allowed back into the PCB fold.