The surface in Dubai was cracked, but there seemed to be more cracks in the batting line-up of the World T20 champions. Imad Wasim exploited all those cracks and rolled West Indies over for 115. In the process, the left-arm spinning allrounder became only the second Pakistan bowler, after Umar Gul, to take a five-for in T20Is. Pakistan then merrily skipped to the target with 34 balls to spare to hint at a white-ball revival, having secured their second successive nine-wicket win in T20Is.
The portents were clear from the first over, after Pakistan had opted to bowl. Taking the new ball, Wasim had Evin Lewis top-edging a catch to deep midwicket. In his next over, he accounted for Andre Fletcher and Marlon Samuels to leave West Indies at 16 for 3. A raft of balls fizzed through and thudded into the pad, drawing appeals from an ever-present slip and captain Sarfraz Ahmed. Looking at the scorecard, it may have appeared that Wasim was bowling magic balls. Truth be told, he didn’t turn them much. Instead, he relied on accuracy and drift to run through West Indies.
Fletcher attempted a low-percentage slog across the line and was bowled. Samuels’ technique of camping back in the crease was exposed again when he was trapped plumb in front by a full slider. Wasim alternated between a good length and a full length, and kept attacking the stumps. West Indies kept losing wickets.
Mohammad Nawaz, the other left-arm spinner in the team, joined the fun when Johnson Charles stepped away outside leg and missed a fast, skiddy delivery. Debutant Nicholas Pooran guided Hasan Ali, the fast bowler, behind in the next over, before Wasim returned and stabbed away at West Indies.
When Wasim dismissed Carlos ‘remember the name’ Brathwaite, he ensured his name would be remembered too, as he became the first Pakistan spinner to pick up a five-wicket haul in T20Is. He finished with figures of 4-0-14-5. He had only bowled only one genuine loose ball: a half-tracker, which was square-cut for four by Samuels.
At 48 for 8 in 12 overs, following the run-out of Sunil Narine, West Indies were in danger of being bowled out for their lowest T20I score. Dwayne Bravo and Jerome Taylor, however, had other ideas. They strung together 66, the highest ninth-wicket partnership in T20Is to save West Indies’ blushes.
Taylor first upset the rhythm of Pakistan when he raced down the track and lofted Nawaz straight over his head for the first six of the match. Bravo, becalmed till then, drove Sohail Tanvir inside-out over extra-cover for six and followed it with a flicked four to rejuvenate the innings.
They hit a higher gear when they took three fours in the 16th over, bowled by Ali. This meant that West Indies passed their previous-lowest score of 79. Tanvir, however, ended the stand when he yorked Taylor for a run-a-ball 21. He ended the innings when he undid Bravo for 55 with a legcutter three balls later. With only Bravo and Taylor logging double-digit scores, the recovery would not be prove enough for West Indies.
Sharjeel Khan set Pakistan’s modest chase in motion with three fours and a six before his old enemy resurfaced: tendency to pull balls that aren’t short enough. He was bowled by a length-ball dart from Samuel Badree for 22, but the wicket only served to alter the margin of victory rather than provide West Indies with any real hope.
The advent of dew did not help West Indies’ cause either. Their misery was compounded by slipshod fielding. Taylor dropped Babar Azam on 12 at the edge of the long-leg boundary. Azam proceeded to seal the chase with back-to-back fours, the first of which snuck through Bravo’s legs to the third-man boundary and gave Azam his maiden T20I half-century.
Opener Khalid Latif complemented him, contributing 30 in an unbroken 88-run stand for the second wicket. West Indies had managed all of 12 boundaries in their innings. Azam and Latif alone hit 13. While West Indies seemed to be missing their Champions – Andre Russell, Chris Gayle and Lendl Simmons – Pakistan found their own amid roars of “Champion, Champion”from the sizeable crowd.