They got the job done – and ultimately that is what matters – but West Indies need to address the fact that they were switched off for large parts of the game, and lacked the ruthlessness they will badly need in the quarter-finals
Produce what is needed. Control what you can control. Cover the bases. No point rushing. Don’t force a result. None of those things suggest any urgency. All of them are simply what Jason Holder asked of his men before their must-win match against UAE.
That may explain why West Indies were only switched on for some parts of the contest, dimmed through others, and seemed to disappear entirely for the rest. Because that was all that was required of them.
Part of their job was done at the toss when Holder asked UAE to bat. He had only one goal in mind: “Restrict them to a small total so we can get the runs quickly.” An even more significant part of the job was done an hour later, when Holder almost single-handedly sliced through UAE with an incisive, and marathon spell of short-ball bowling aided by extra bounce and heavy air. Almost because Jerome Taylor chipped in as well, but single-handedly because Holder was the one who seemed to be pushing through a barrier.
He bowled his 10-over allotment in one spell because he could see he was getting results. He was generating lift off the surface and movement off the seam. UAE’s top-order did not know how to deal with the combination of targeted aggression and good pace. Holder just knew how to keep the pressure on them. “I did it for the team,” he said.
But his change bowler at the other end did not. Kemar Roach, who came into this game needing one wicket to reach 100 ODI scalps and left it still needing that, could not slam the door at this end the way Holder had done. Roach does not have the extra foot of height of his captain. This should have seen him go fuller insist of persisting with back-of-a-length deliveries but he did not make the adjustment.
Holder hopes Gayle will be fit
Chris Gayle, who missed the match against UAE with a long-standing back injury, may have to play through the pain when West Indies face New Zealand in next week’s World Cup quarter-final, as he is crucial to their chances of advancing further in the competition.
“Chris has the same back problem. He has good days, he has bad days,” Jason Holder said. “We know that going into the quarter-finals, his fitness is key. I’m sure he will be up for it, even if he is not 100%. It’s an important game and he is a big player and we know what big players can do in big games.”
Should Gayle return, West Indies would have to leave out one of Dwayne Smith or Johnson Charles, who opened the batting against UAE. Holder suggested it may be the Smith, since Charles marked his return to the side after an absence of more than a year with an aggressive half-century. “We will pick the best team but right now, I think Johnson has secured his spot for the next game.”
Over the next 26 overs, energy drained from the field as West Indies appeared to lose interest. They had UAE six down and it seemed that was enough for them. They were willing to wait for the other four to fall instead of forcing them over, even though Holder insisted that was not the case. “We were always pushing to get them out,” he said. “During those phases, you have to keep energy up and try not to try too hard but build pressure. It’s all about building pressure.”
That was what Andre Russell and Marlon Samuels, in particular, did when they dried up the runs against a line-up which does not mind being in a dessert because they were in it to show they could stand the heat, not find water. UAE could take their time. The outcome would make no difference to their travel plans so all they were after was making sure they could leave with heads held high and gutsing it out for a bit, would do that.
When they got to the last 10 overs and could see there was room for some acceleration, they tried to play a few shots. Occasionally it worked for them but largely it backfired. They did not even manage to get to 200.
Most teams would be happy to restrict their opposition to less than that. But what if the opposition could have been kept to half that score? Well, that is the question West Indies will have to ask themselves when they address the issue of ruthlessness in the run-up to their quarter-final.
West Indies’ batting showed more intent, especially with Johnson Charles trying to secure both the result and his place in the team. His aim to do both quickly was apparent when he charged Nasir Aziz twice in the first over and took 10 runs off him in the process. He struck the ball cleanly and picked the gaps well to set the tone for what should have been a rapid chase.
As New Zealand have discovered more than once in the competition, when a team wants to motor to a total, they run the risk of implosion. West Indies would not have been too worried when Dwayne Smith and Samuels were dismissed, but they may have been unhappy with the manner of their dismissals.
Smith has had an indifferent World Cup so far, with three starts but no signs of converting those and this was his chance to change that. Instead, his lack of footwork contributed to him being caught behind off a ball that went across him. He had squandered yet another opportunity. Still, West Indies will likely be more annoyed by Samuels throwing his wicket away, as he often does, by gifting a fielder a catch.
Charles guided the chase and has given West Indies an option for the knockouts. If Chris Gayle returns and Charles joins him, it would make for a powerful opening pair to set a platform for the middle-order to build on. But they will need to build with more of a blueprint than they did today, when they meandered to the target simply because they could.
West Indies would have known they had to win in 36.2 overs to secure their spot and they almost used up all of that time to get there. That does not make them a poor team with a poor approach – in hindsight it may even make sense because they would not have run their batteries down before they really need them – but it will make some wonder why they did not want to make a bigger statement. The answer, is simply because they didn’t have to and for Holder, that suits him just fine.
“I couldn’t ask anything more. We had to win by a big margin and we did that, so I really can’t ask for much more,” Holder said. If you think about it, he’s probably right.