The West Indies struggled to a nervous two-wicket victory over Pakistan in their opening Champions Trophy Group B match on Friday, after dismissing their opponents for only 170 on a good Oval pitch.
Man-of-the-match Kemar Roach was the West Indies’ hero, hitting the winning boundary after ripping through the Pakistan top order once Dwayne Bravo had won the toss and elected to field.
The victory target would have been even smaller had it not been for a battling 96-not-out from Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq, his highest score in 118 one-day internationals.
Misbah could have been out three times before reaching double figures, but he managed to hang on and eventually batted with calm assurance, hitting three sixes and adding 32 for the last wicket with Mohammad Irfan (two) before his side were dismissed with two overs to spare.
“We could have gone to 240-250, but there were some bad shots and we kept on losing wickets,” Misbah said. “If you are set, you can’t make a mistake, otherwise your team suffers.”
Irfan, one of a trio of Pakistan left-arm fast bowlers and the tallest man in world cricket, extracted vicious lift from a good Oval pitch and troubled all the West Indies batsman.
Johnson Charles (nine) lofted a short delivery straight to Wahab Riaz at long-leg who had to move forward only a step to take a comfortable catch.
Darren Bravo (zero) was beaten by pace, edging a catch behind to Kamran Akmal and even the customarily impassive Chris Gayle was forced to hurry his defensive shots.
Gayle decided to fight fire with fire, smacking a straight six off Imran with minimal foot movement and taking a boundary over mid-off, followed by another through mid-wicket with a delightful flicked pull.
He and Samuels took the total to 78 without further loss, when Gayle was comprehensively bowled attempting to heave Saeed Ajmal out of the ground.
Riaz matched Irfan for speed from the Pavilion end, firing one delivery past Sarwan’s attempted hook shot and unleashing another brute which brushed the batsman’s glove and flew through to Akmal.
Pollard could make little of Ajmal’s variations and Samuels (30) was easily stumped by Akmal after advancing well down the pitch to Pakistan’s fifth bowler Mohammad Hafeez, only for the ball to pass the outside edge by a distance.
Riaz accounted for Keiron Pollard (30), captain Dwayne Bravo was LBW to Ajmal for 19 and Sunil Narine was caught off the excellent Irfan for 11 before Roach (five not out) and Denesh Ramdin (11 not out) saw their side home in the 41st over.
Roach took three for five from 14 deliveries with the new ball and Narine captured three for three from 10 balls in the middle of the innings with his flighted off-spin.
Bravo dived across from second slip in front of Gayle to grab a low catch off Imran Farhat (two) off the final ball of Roach’s opening over.
Roach then knocked over Hafeez’s middle stump when the Pakistan No. 3 had scored four and Asad Shafiq was out without scoring when he upper-cut a Roach delivery straight to Ravi Rampaul at third man.
It could have been even worse for Pakistan when Misbah survived a confident appeal for LBW from Roach, shuffling half forward before he had scored.
Off the next ball he was given out by Steve Davis, caught behind by Ramdin. However, after Davis had consulted with his fellow umpire Nigel Llong, the decision was reversed when the pair decided the wicketkeeper had not had effective control of the ball after making the catch.
Misbah was then dropped on four at short-leg by Pollard off Narine.
Narine accounted for opener Nasir Jamshed for an obdurate 50, Shoaib Malik (zero) and Akmal (two) after Pakistan had rallied from 15 for three to 105 without further loss.
Riaz (six) and Ajmal (two) were both run out, and Gayle took a magnificent leaping one-handed catch at slip to account for Junaid Khan (zero) off Bravo’s bowling.
Misbah, who was on 67 when the ninth wicket fell, found a willing partner in Irfan, who contributed just two to a last-wicket partnership of 32 from 46 deliveries before Bravo took his third catch.