Pakistan v W Indies, Champions Trophy, Rose Bowl September 22, 2004

No such thing as a sure thing

The Wisden Verdict by Hugh Chevallier at Southampton



Inzamam-ul-Haq: puzzling decision © Getty Images

Question: What is the one certainty about England's first one-day international played after the autumnal equinox?

Answer: That the captain winning the toss will bowl.

The real answer, as it turns out, is that in this game there is no such thing as a sure thing. When Inzamam-ul-Haq won the toss this cloudy morning, there was not a soul in the Rose Bowl who believed he would bat. (Well, assuming Inzy discusses these things with Bob Woolmer, Pakistan's recently appointed English coach, there must have been two. That, of course, discounts the distinctly plausible theory that Woolmer thought Inzy was joking, in which case the Pakistan captain would have been on his own.)

It's quite possible to get carried away listing arguments to back up the notion that Inzy had an aberration, but just one might be enough. This was the 14th game of the 2004 Champions Trophy, and only once before had a captain chosen to bat. On that occasion, Rajin Saleh fancied his chances against South Africa, only to see his Bangladesh side crumple for 93. If Inzy's decision was a rush of blood, he had plenty of time to repent at leisure. The game was over by 4.15, after just 66 of the scheduled 100 overs.

But Pakistan's folly extended beyond the toss. It was strange timing for poor Salman Butt, a 19-year-old opener, to make his one-day international debut. He lasted two balls. Had Butt hit a sumptuous hundred, his inclusion would have been a stroke of genius, but the Rose Bowl pitch - as Woolmer, who came here as Warwickshire coach, should know - is notoriously tricky.

Indeed, the Pakistanis had got in a pre-emptive strike against the Rose Bowl pitch. "Anyone who's played here will have an advantage," warned Woolmer before the match, "It's very different to Edgbaston, so we'll have to concentrate hard."

Yes and no. Yes, West Indies had an advantage, though one that should have been nullified by losing the toss, and no, there was little sign of any hard concentration. Both Yasir Hameed, the only Pakistan batsman to strike more than a couple of boundaries, and Abdul Razzaq were run out risking a second run to Dwayne Bravo's athleticism on the point boundary.

Several others were culpable, too, though it seemed to be fear of the pitch rather than any outlandish movement that caused their downfall. It was as if Pakistan had talked themselves on to the back foot. Why, then, did Inzy bat? He said at the post-match press conference that chasing 200 or more would have been very difficult. But scoring 200-plus going in first is trickier still.

Hugh Chevallier is deputy editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack.