Play began in muggy conditions and prospects of a shower or two – heralds of Cyclone Pam – could not be ruled out in the afternoon. Jason Holder, the West Indies captain, did his bit – win the toss, choose to bowl and put the UAE top order into a shredder – to set his team a target of 176 in 36.2 overs. West Indies’ batsmen chased down the total in 30.3 overs, and once Sarfraz Ahmed’s ton inspired Pakistan to victory a few hours later, both teams’ berths in the knockouts were sealed.
Johnson Charles, brought in for the injured Chris Gayle, has been on ice for over a year in ODI cricket. Jonathan Carter was playing his second tournament for West Indies. Neither man showed themselves as such and took West Indies past the target without much incident.
Marlon Samuels had played 13 of their last 16 completed matches, but today he was so rusty touching him might have cut your skin. He was 1 off 11 balls, had a couple skirt past his outside edge before eventually tapping a short delivery into point’s hands. This was not the innings West Indies wanted on an important chase, not from a senior player. And worse his nervous 9 off 18 came after the early wicket of Dwayne Smith. Had the bowling been a little nippier than UAE’s, West Indies might have been in trouble.
Charles’ pace was fortunate compensation. He batted considerably outside his crease to blunt the new ball and found the boundary in seven of the first 10 overs – including two serene cover drives, two bludgeoned sixes over the leg side and a rasping front-foot cut. He got to his fifty in 34 balls. Carter was steadier, using the bowler’s pace as he pushed and dabbed his way to 50 off 58 and was there when the winning runs were struck.
There must have been nerves in the West Indies camp in the morning. Anything less than a win – even a washout – would have knocked them out of the World Cup. Holder embraced the challenge. He was seen with a giant grin in the huddle, almost as if he had seen the future and knew he would take three wickets in 16 deliveries.
Andri Berenger was caught napping in the corridor by extra bounce. Krishna Chandran shuffled in line with a back of a length delivery, but it straightened to take the edge through to first slip. Amjad Ali hampered himself by playing across the line of an inswinger and was struck in front. Holder’s best wicket came later, when Swapnil Patil, who had lasted 100 balls against South Africa, was lulled by a set of outswingers and never saw the one that jagged back in coming.
Jerome Taylor cleaned up Khurram Khan’s stumps with a top-class inswinging yorker in the seventh over and slipped through Shaiman Anwar’s defences in his next over. Holder bowled his 10 overs on the trot and finished with 4 for 27. West Indies had struck half the opposition down before the score reached 30 for a second time in this World Cup.
The KO appeared on the horizon and a 10-over chase loomed, far larger than Cyclone Pam. Amjad Javed and Nasir Aziz though realised the swing had abated, recognised West Indies’ fourth and fifth bowlers weren’t as threatening and strung together a 107-run partnership for the seventh wicket, a World Cup record and a UAE record for any wicket against a Test nation. The fielders appeared reluctant to go after the ball even when it hadn’t been hit all that hard. Marlon Samuels, Darren Sammy and Dwayne Smith were handled with ease as both batsmen raised their maiden fifties and helped push the UAE innings as far as the 48th over.
Javed, at No. 7, was the first man to reach double-figures by keeping the good balls out and picking up the runs that were on offer, like when Taylor offered length and was tonked over wide long-on and Kemar Roach offered a half-volley and was sliced through the covers to bring up his fifty in 91 balls.
Aziz was batting for the first time in ODIs and was understandably skittish. He could have been dismissed for 11 had Holder held on to a tough chance in the slips, but eventually settled down. Shuffling outside off, he made 40 of his 60 runs on the leg side and reached his half-century off 70 balls. Aziz’s celebration was rather striking – arms aloft, helmet off and gratitude offered skywards. Perhaps both batsmen thought their jobs were done, because they followed each other to the dressing room in quick succession and UAE lost their last four wickets for 22 runs.