Finest Caribbean one-day moment
If you are a West Indian fan and took the trouble of staying up late in front of your television in the early hours on Saturday, it was worth the time. It is for the fact that a non-descript West Indies side have done something extraordinary that their big name predecessors or the current high-profile cricketers, presently featuring in the money-spinning IPL, had not done it before.
They toppled Pakistan's 308 to win the first one-day international by four wickets at the National Stadium in Guyana and thus created a small piece of history. The successful chase meant that the Caribbeans, now languishing at number nine in the one-day rankings, toppled a 300-plus target for the first time ever following previous 31 failed attempts over a 44-year period.
Jason Mohammed was the hero of the match with a scintillating unbeaten 91 off 58 balls as the home side reached the target with an over to spare. The right-hander came into the match on the back of three consecutive half centuries. But his fourth one was special. He turned the tide when Pakistan, with a high-profile bowling line-up which was bolstered by the introduction of sensational young leg-spinner Shadab Khan, appeared to have been running away with a victory.
Mohammed may be small in stature; he may not be muscular. But his clean-hitting against the likes of Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz was something to behold. He kept the scoreboard ticking when wickets fell at the other end. The decisive flip in the match came when Ashley Nurse walked in to the middle after the departure of West Indies captain Jason Holder, who perished at long-off while trying to hit Shadab out of the ground for a second successive six.
That was a situation from where West Indies have lost so many games before. But with 49 required off 33 deliveries and Mohammed hitting the length ball to the distance or smashing an Amir bouncer for six over long-on, Nurse turned the fear into the Pakistan camp when he picked up a leg-spinner from Shadab outside the off-stump for a massive six over mid-wicket. It was also a game when Mohammed-Nurse pair shunned the flamboyance as the equation came down to 17-off 15 balls.
Mohammed struck 11 fours and three sixes in his magnificent knock while Nurse's explosive 15-ball 34 contained five fours and six.
"I knew it was going to be difficult against Shadab," Mohammed said after receiving the man of the match award.
"I decided to go after the fast bowlers and where to hit them. That clear thinking paid off today."
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed said he was disappointed with the way they bowled at the end, reflecting on the first time Pakistan have failed to defend a total in excess of 300 outside of sub-continent.
"Jason batted brilliantly but we need to come back stronger for the second match on Sunday," Sarfraz said.
Both teams are battling for important ranking points to confirm automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup in England as one of the top eight teams by the cut-off date of September 30 this year.
SCORES IN BRIEF
PAKISTAN: 308 for 5 in 50 overs (Shehzad 67, Hafeez 88, Malik 53; Holder 1-58, Nurse 4-62)
WEST INDIES: 309 for 6 in 49 overs (Powell 61, Mohammed 91 not out, Nurse 34 not out; Amir 2-59, Khan 2-52)
Result: West Indies won by 4 wickets.