This might have been billed as the day international cricket came back to Karachi, but take that with a pinch of salt. A whole tablespoon, rather.
The team Pakistan played against today – and beat by 143 runs – was in no universe international standard. Thirteen individuals cobbled together whose only unifying characteristic was their willingness to travel to Pakistan, they were never a match for the top-ranked T20I side. Especially not if you consider they had arrived in Pakistan from halfway around the world just 24 hours ago (the squad having only been announced late in the early hours of Friday morning), with barely enough time to shake off their jetlag before they were sped to the National Stadium to face off against Pakistan. In all senses of the phrase, this simply wasn’t cricket.
A wretched bowling performance from West Indies – if we must call the touring side that – began with Samuel Badree, Keemo Paul and Riyad Emrit well off their lines and lengths, Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam easily finding the gaps to take advantage of the fielding restrictions, as Pakistan sped to 56 for 1 in the first six overs. You might be forgiven for not noticing the fielding restrictions had been lifted thereafter, as Pakisatn continued along their merry way, never encumbered by tricky bowling or intelligent field setting. The quality of fielding from the tourists was amateur, singles on several occasions turning into boundaries as fielders under no pressure whatsoever let balls slip through their fingers.
Even when West Indies managed to take wickets, it wasn’t down to the skill of the bowling. Until the 17th over, just three wickets and fallen, two of them to run-outs. Debutant Hussain Talat, who looked excellent as he top-scored with 41, was unfortunate enough to be involved in two mix-ups, the first one putting paid to Fakhar’s bright start, while a collision between Sarfraz Ahmed and Kesrick Williams meant Talat himself was left stranded mid-pitch.
After a rare spell around the death overs in which West Indies looked to be reining Pakistan in somewhat, the shackles broke again in the penultimate over. What followed devastated West Indies and was arguably responsible for taking the wind out of their sails, even for the second innings. As Faheem Ashraf and Shoaib Malik freed their arms for a final flourish, Emrit and Williams found themselves helpless to stop the carnage. A whopping 41 runs came off the last ten balls as Pakistan surged to their joint-highest T20I total, setting West Indies a target of 204.
It was like bringing a gun to a knife fight; they needn’t have bothered with such a vertigo-inducing total. The six that Chadwick Walton hit Mohammad Nawaz for off the first ball was a false dawn as West Indies quickly began to unravel. Other than Walton and Marlon Samuels, no one in the top five scored a single run. Andre Fletcher and Jason Mohammed looked to be giving Hussain Talat catching practice at cover, both falling in Mohammad Amir’s first over. Denesh Ramdin, underwhelming in the PSL, didn’t trouble the scorers either, holing out to midwicket, and when Samuels top-edged a big heave off Nawaz, the visitors had slumped to 33 for 6, and the contest was descending into farce.
West Indies would have been thankful to get past 39, the lowest T20I total ever, but there was no denying the innings was headed towards an early finish. Shoaib Malik removed the next two off consecutive deliveries just after West Indies crossed 50, and 79 – their previous lowest T20I score – was looking a long distance away. Particularly since West Indies were one man short; Veerasammy Permaul had injured his foot while bowling and would not bat.
And sure enough, with the score at 60, the last wicket fell, condemning West Indies to a slew of unwanted records: their lowest T20I score and the largest margin of defeat between two Full Members among the more ignominious ones.
It’s hard to read much into either side’s performance today, given the disparity between them. You could make a case that the touring side didn’t play as well as they could, but one can’t help feeling an improved performance may only win them respectability. To win cricket matches, they may need a number of players who, for all sorts of reasons, aren’t where West Indies would want them to be – in Karachi.