A day after hosts England served up tangible evidence of why they are overwhelming favourites this World Cup in the tournament opener, West Indies announced their candidature in style against Pakistan in the sophomore game. The Windies are here; not just entertain, but to win. They blew past Pakistan in quick time, bowling out their suffering opponents for 105 - Pakistan's second lowest World Cup total - and took just 84 balls to reach the target.
Windies captain Jason Holder won the toss and chose to bowl, keeping in mind the overcast conditions. What followed was one team sticking hard and fast to their game plan and the other apparently lacking one. The West Indies' strategy of bowling short and fast worked wonders; Pakistan, on the other hand, it seemed, woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Batter after batter succumbed to short and short of length balls, often comically.
Here are five talking points from the game:
LOOK AT THE PITCH; LOOK UP AT THE SKY TOO
WI captain Jason Holder went out on the grass, looked up at the sky and when the coin fell his way he decided to trust his pace attack in the first ten overs. He was right. It was overcast, even if the pitch wasn't particularly bowler-friendly. Even Sarfaraz Ahmed wanted to bowl. Sheldon Cottrell's first over to Imam-ul-Haq was the signal for things yet to come. Cottrell got a bit of movement from the pitch and the weather, kept a good line and flirted with Imam's outside edge. He got Imam in his second over, though not in a way you'd expect. Holder also smartly took himself out of the attack and brought in Andre Russell, who got Fakhar Zaman with the bouncer. Russell then sent Haris Sohail packing, a bit of extra pace and extra bounce doing the trick again. Holder's plan had worked; his seamers wrecked the Pakistani top order and laid the ground for a conservative target.
BOWL SHORT, GET THE WICKET
West Indies bounced Pakistan out of the game. Once Andre Russell was brought into the attack to devastating effect, the gameplan was simple: bowl short or short of length, keep it fast and get the wicket. Pakistani batsmen just did not look like they were ready to face anything rising above their waists. This World Cup has been talked about as batter's tournament, but in two games now, bowlers have shown they are up for it.
Oshane Thomas ended up the big wicket taker with his 4 for 27, but Russell's three overs that picked up two crucial and early wickets while giving away just four runs, were perhaps the backbreaker for Pakistan. Thomas and Holder followed suit and cleaned up Pakistan's submissive middle order and tail.
PAKISTAN COLLAPSE A CONCERN
Pakistan's collapse culminated into their second lowest World Cup total of all time. Their lowest was 74 against England in Adelaide at the 1992 World Cup, which Pakistan went on to win actually. But if they are to do something similar this time, their batting needs to fire. If they keep succumbing to short deliveries, they are handing out a memo on how to dismantle their batting lineup.
Their ineptitude with the bat against West Indies was a little surprising too. Pakistan crossed the 300 run-mark four times in a row in similar conditions in the recently concluded series against England.
Another question that Sarfaraz Ahmed needs to answer is why was Asif Ali not picked? Ali's daughter tragically passed away recently and he had flown home last week to join his family. But, once back, he had said he was fully ready for the World Cup. It doesn't then make sense to leave out your power hitter against a team of power hitters.
WEST INDIES SHOW INTENT
This was a 'dark horse derby'. Both Pakistan and West Indies have considerable World Cup history and heft behind them and both are today considered wildly unpredictable. The Windies are the current champions of the T20 World Cup (2016), while Pakistan are the current holders of the Champions Trophy (2017). Both teams went in to this World Cup as the unpredictable dark horses who could beat anyone on their day. But West Indies are showing mature intent early on in the tournament. They dispatched New Zealand in the warm up, scoring 421 runs and bowling out the Black Caps for 331. Against Pakistan, they took all of 84 balls to reach the target, losing three wickets on the way. Shai Hope is the one in form, but it was the veteran Chris Gayle who took the initiate, scoring a trademark quickfire 50 off 34.
The Windies are off to a great start - their Net Run Rate is off the charts at 5.81 right now - but they face Australia next. If they turn up in their second game, consider it them throwing their hat in the ring.
THE LOSING STREAK
Pakistan have now lost 12 ODIs in a row, the longest they have ever gone without a win. Their last ODI win came against South Africa in January this year. Since then, they've been shutout against Australia and England. They even lost to Afghanistan in the World Cup warm up game. To make matters worse, they face hosts and overwhelming favourites England next on Monday.
Pakistan seems to have fallen into a rut and England are last team they'd want to face when they are trying to get out of it.