–West Indies v Pakistan, 1st ODI, Providence
West Indies 309 for 6 (Jason Mohammed 91*, Powell 61, Amir 2-59) beat Pakistan 308 for 5 (Hafeez 88, Shehzad 67, Nurse 4-62) by four wickets.
This is one way to nail a 300-plus chase, a method no cricket manual, traditional or modern, would recommend. West Indies themselves may have not planned to finish it off this way, but they did. Jason Mohammed played the innings of his life as West Indies clawed their way back into a contest they didn’t even seem to be a part of for 35 overs of the chase.
They needed 128 from 13 overs when Jason Mohammed suddenly exploded into life, treating Pakistan’s vaunted fast-bowling attack with disdain, as Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz and Hasan Ali were all on the receiving end of hammerings in the slog overs.
When Pakistan realised there was life yet in the contest, Jason Mohammed was one step ahead of everything the bowlers, and an increasingly panic-stricken Sarfraz Ahmed, could throw at him.
Ashley Nurse gave Jason Mohammed adequate support towards the end as Pakistan’s sizeable advantage vanished before their disbelieving eyes. Before the small Guyana crowd could pinch themselves, their side had beaten Pakistan into submission and romped to their highest-successful ODI chase.
A West Indies win appeared unlikely after Kieron Powell – the only batsman who had attempted to inject any impetus into the West Indies innings in the first half – and wicketkeeper Shai Hope fell within 10 balls of each other.
They were both dismissed off quality deliveries, Wahab deceiving Powell with a beautifully disguised slower ball, while Shadab extracted sharp turn and bounce to catch Hope out of his crease while Sarfraz broke the stumps.
While it appeared that the last rites were being read, Jason Mohammad harboured a secret. He thought, naively, that the West Indies could still win. Never mind that they had barely spluttered past second gear all match, or that Pakistan’s bowlers had quality to burn, or that the West Indies had never chased a total above 300 in an ODI.
He began by hitting boundaries while looking like he just wanted to have a bit of fun. Pakistan appeared to be taken in for a while, going through the motions, letting the game stroll through to its inevitable conclusion. But then they suddenly looked up: 82 to win off nine overs with six wickets in hand. Nothing about that looked impossible, especially not with Jason Mohammad smelling blood.
Earlier, Pakistan had posted an apparently impregnable 308, breaking the record for the highest innings score at the Providence Stadium in Guyana. Their innings came to life in the last 10 overs – they smashed 92 – after falling away briefly in the middle overs. Their success at keeping wickets in hand, combined with the brilliant ball-striking of Shoaib Malik ensured they went past the 303 that had been the record for this ground.
The groundwork was laid by Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez after Pakistan were put in to bat on a newly laid surface. If Shehzad and fellow opener Kamran Akmal, returning to the ODI side after a four-year gap, were unsure of how the pitch would play, they didn’t show it, attacking at every available opportunity, and not afraid of hitting the ball in the air; they added 59 in the first 10 overs.
The pace of the innings dropped off significantly after Kamran’s dismisal for a 49-ball 48. Hafeez – surprisingly sent in ahead of the in-form Babar Azam – struggled for rhythm, and seemed to get worse, not better, as his innings wore on, struggling to rotate the strike or even find the middle of the bat at times. No boundary was scored between overs 25.3 and 37 as Pakistan’s strike rate slipped below five an over.
Then he suddenly moved from sluggish to sensational in the last third of his innings to somewhat make up for his near lapse. At one stage, he had scored 31 off 53, but smashed 57 of his last 39 balls to finish with an innings-defining 88 off 92. His change in approach coincided with Malik’s arrival at the crease, who was instrumental in providing impetus to an innings that had been threatening to stagnate. When he did hole out straight down the ground for 53 off 38 balls, Pakistan were well on course for a total beyond 300 that looked unlikely before his intervention.
But unbeknownst to everyone watching, Hafeez and co. had merely been the warm-up act to Jason Mohammad and Ashley Nurse. The so-called second-string internationals, in the absence of their IPL superstars, were about to put on a second innings show that will live not just long in the memory, but immortally in the record books. (ESPNcricinfo)
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000