`Bravo!' cries turn into survival struggle
Dwayne Bravo told a nearly empty press conference that he was going to be an attacking captain.
It's a nice sentiment. But cricket doesn't always work that way. A flat pitch, bad bowling line-up, or just a touch of nerves and the most attacking modern captain will end up with sweepers and catching fielders who can barely see the batsmen.
Dwayne Bravo attacked.
It helped that Kemar Roach was bowling like he was on rails. That action is so smooth that you can forgive the odd batsman for falling into a trance as he comes in. Pakistan seemed to on masse. It was not hard to have a couple of slips in as this was happening. Even the most defensive captain would have an attacking field when his opening bowler was in the middle of a spell of 6-4-7-3.
Dwayne Bravo had a short leg in. And a leg gully. Not many would try that.
Now it should be pointed out that I'm not talking about the sort of leg gully that captains use when they want to pretend they have a catching fielder. This was a close attacking leg gully who could have seen the hairs on Asad Shafiq's neck standing up.
Regularly there were three, four and even five catchers in place. Pakistan had worked themselves back into the game when Nasir Jamshed forgot his brain. But even at 105 for 4, in the 30th over, Shoaib Malik was greeted with many catchers by Bravo. He found one as well.
Bravo just kept pushing for wickets. He'd even gambled by bowling Roach out in the 35th over. It was the attacking, flamboyant enjoyable cricket he had promised.
And then the West Indies batted.
Johnson Charles and Chris Gayle started the innings like they were only chasing 170 and that it wasn't a big deal. Even when Charles and Darren Bravo departed, the innings moved forward without any real fear despite some class bowling from Pakistan.
Then Gayle was foxed by a sexily flighted ball from Saeed Ajmal. It was a similar dismissal that you will see in any cricket net in the world. The ball went above Gayle's eyeline, Gayle was entranced by it, made his mind up that it was going, and then missed it and was out.
Perhaps it was the fact that on top of the pace of Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan, they still had to deal with Ajmal. Or maybe it was losing their main man.
But from there West Indies forgot about entertainment and attacking and they bummed around the crease like they had missed the last bus home. An easy looking chase suddenly became a painful fight for survival.
Kieron Pollard took 18 balls to get off the mark. And if that sounds like he was batting smart and trying to steady the ship, that's because you didn't see it. It was as if every bit of batting talent Pollard ever had had drained from his body as he reached the crease. The man who effortlessly hits sixes was having enough trouble hitting the ball. Riaz roughed him up. Ajmal tormented him. Even Hafeez was mocking him. Pollard only got off the mark by almost running himself out. Then there was the drop, edges past slip, gloved balls over the keeper.
Even when he hit a good shot, all he looked like was a bad Kieron Pollard impersonator.
At the other end for most of this was his new attacking captain. Dwayne Bravo limped to 11 off 26 in a more attractive way than Pollard, but even though much of the partnership seemed to be two doomed men holding on to the edge of a boat with sharks at their feet, they scored 43 runs in barely more than ten overs. Helped by the fact Misbah was so positive that they wouldn't last, and potentially inspired by Dwayne Bravo's earlier boldness, that he had the field up as often as he could.
It was the exact opposite sort of cricket that the West Indies captain had promised to play. Yet, it was what they needed to do. It silenced the massive Pakistani crowd. And it got them just close enough for a spirited tail to guide them home.
There are few things harder to do in life than beat an inspired Pakistan with a ferocious crowd behind them and class bowling at every turn. You do it any way you can. Attack and play pretty when it suits you; claw and fight like hell when it doesn't.
Bravo wasn't always an attacking captain, but he was a winning one.