One-Day Internationals are usually won by playing good cricket for the best part of 100 overs.
But, they can be lost in a matter of 19 balls, as Pakistan proved against the West Indies on Saturday in Christchurch.
Those who tuned in to the game late would have been forgiven for thinking their television screens were displaying the score the Australian way when they saw Pakistan at 1 for 4. Jerome Taylor had three wickets for one run, and Jason Holder one for none at one stage, and the suggestion of a chase of 311 seemed far-fetched.
It was Taylor who blew the game out of the water, in the first over after the lunch interval. Nasir Jamshed looked to fetch a fast one from outside off and pull, but only ballooned a dolly to short midwicket. Five balls later, Younis Khan was on his way before he could get his feet moving, a delivery angling into him from wide of the crease straightening at the last moment to catch the outside edge.
Haris Sohail made it three ducks in a row, cutting a ball from Taylor that was too straight for the shot, only finding the point fielder, who juggled but held on. Holder joined the party when Ahmed Shehzad drove with hard hands, not quite to the pitch of the ball, spearing a catch to gully.
At 1 for 4, even the most incurable optimist would have accepted that only one result was possible, as long as the weather held. Of course, he might have suggested that all was not lost for Pakistan, who was bowled out for 74 against England in the 1992 World Cup, a tournament it would go on to win.
Neither precipitation nor positive thinking messed with the result on a day when the skies at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch transformed from the colour of steel to sapphire just at the right time.
Even the man who makes the most of a good crisis, Misbah-ul-Haq, could not put up a stand, falling for only 7 to leave Pakistan at 25 for 5. Sohaib Maqsood (50) and Umar Akmal (59) helped themselves to half-centuries, but all this did was flatter the margin of defeat to 150 runs and make the tiniest of dents in the negative net run-rate as Pakistan was bowled out for 160.
Earlier, Pakistan had a poor day on the field too. At least five straightforward catches were put down – Jamshed, Umar Akmal, Mohammad Irfan and Shahid Afridi, twice being the guilty parties. The West Indies, however, could not really capitalise.
Chris Gayle and Dwayne Smith continued to struggle at the top. The pressure eventually told, Gayle mishitting a pull and Smith nibbling outside off.
Darren Bravo, the most assured of all the batsmen on display, took one crunching blow when a misdirected run out attempt from Younis Khan crashed into the side of the batsman’s helmet. After some attention from the doctor, and a quick check that all was well, Bravo rose to play some pleasing shots.
But a second fall, this time clutching a left hamstring that appeared to be torn, would put an end to his innings. Bravo, on 49, was driven off the ground on a golf cart ambulance, clutching his leg in serious pain.
Only 16 runs came from five Power Play overs for the West Indies. It took Denesh Ramdin to get the innings going, cheeky cut shots, confident straight drives and muscular mows over the onside taking him to 51 off only 43 balls before one big shot too many resulted in his dismissal.
Lendl Simmons, fresh from a counter-attacking century against Ireland in Nelson, found he had plenty to do once more. And he showed that he was up to the task, launching Shahid Afridi into the stands at midwicket with a confident slog sweep early in his innings. Hitting on both sides of the pitch, Simmons gave Pakistan’s bowlers a real headache, boundaries coming off cuts, heaves and sweeps.
Andre Russell joined Simmons (50 not out) in the middle for some long-handle fun at the death, swinging hard and true to clobber 42 off only 13 balls and the West Indies was lifted to 310 for 6. That would prove 150 too many for Pakistan, who failed to make it past 39 overs.
Bangladesh benefit from washout
Of all the contests at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 so far, the one between Australia and Bangladesh in Brisbane on Saturday was, perhaps, the most lop-sided, with the host starting out as the clear favourite.
But there have been so many inches of rain in Brisbane over the past few days that there was far more chance of organising a sailing regatta than a cricket match. And Bangladesh, which had never played at the Gabba before, leaves Brisbane with an unexpected point and the knowledge that victory against Sri Lanka, England or New Zealand will almost certainly guarantee it a quarterfinal place.
As for Australia, it now knows that nothing less than a win will do at Eden Park in Auckland next Saturday (February 28) against New Zealand, their co-host, if it is to top the group.
The washout also meant that it would take another week for it to be confirmed whether George Bailey, who led Australia in their opening match against England, would be dropped from the XI in order to accommodate Michael Clarke on his return from a hamstring injury.
Bangladesh, which has now made its best start to a World Cup, head to Melbourne and a contest against Sri Lanka. It will mark its first appearance at cricket’s greatest amphitheatre, and it will hope that, unlike in Brisbane, the rain and storms stay well away.