Match Analysis

Hope and Pooran offer WI a new batting blueprint

Pair finds a way past Nepal's banana peel with a 216-run fourth-wicket stand that came at 7.57

Deivarayan Muthu
Nicholas Pooran brought up his second ODI century, Nepal vs West Indies, World Cup Qualifier, Harare, June 22, 2023

Nicholas Pooran brought up his second ODI century and his first since the 2019 ODI World Cup  •  ICC via Getty Images

After Shai Hope knocked Nepal seamer Gulsan Jha through midwicket for a double, he eased the helmet off his head and raised his bat in typical understated fashion. It has become a familiar sight for West Indies in ODI cricket. This was Hope's 15th hundred in ODI cricket overall and his ninth since the end of the 2019 ODI World Cup.
Since that tournament, seven other West Indies batters have combined to produce nine centuries among them in ODI cricket. Among those, Evin Lewis has made himself unavailable for West Indies selection until after CPL 2023 and Shimron Hetmyer was left out for the ongoing ODI World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe.
Three legal balls after Hope had brought up his hundred, Nicholas Pooran reached a century of his own and joined the list of West Indian batters not named Hope to hit an ODI ton in recent times. Pooran celebrated it by blowing a kiss towards the West Indian dressing room. Andy Flower, who was on commentary around the time, wasn't surprised with Pooran taking down a bowling attack in ODI cricket, having worked with him at Lucknow Super Giants in IPL 2023.
But it was still an unfamiliar sight for the Caribbean fans in ODI cricket. This was only Pooran's second ODI hundred and first since the 2019 World Cup in England. When Pooran got together with Hope, West Indies were 55 for 3 in the 16th over and the ball was still decking around. But the pair found a way around Nepal's banana peel and swatted them aside with a 216-run fourth-wicket partnership that came at a run rate of 7.57.
Pooran was dropped twice by wicketkeeper Aasif Sheikh - first on 3 and then on 54 - but he showed innings construction and reconstruction skills before teeing off in the slog overs. With legspinner Sandeep Lamichhane turning into the ball into him, Pooran regularly hit with the turn and attacked the shorter leg-side boundaries at the Harare Sports Club. Pooran then pressed onto intimidate Nepal's attack with sheer power, something that has put him on the wish list of T20 - and T10 - franchises around the world.
As for Hope, he initially struggled to pick Lamichhane's variations from the wrist, but he lined up the fingerspinners Dipendra Singh Airee and Lalit Rajbanshi to dovetail beautifully with Pooran. It is for this middle-order stability and impetus that Hope has given up his opening slot for Brandon King who isn't as strong against spin. After West Indies wrapped up a 101-run win, Hope credited Pooran for making life easier for him.
"I still believe that my rhythm was a bit off to be fair and in that situation I'm happy that I came up trumps for the team," Hope said after collecting the Player-of-the-Match award. "The key [to the partnership with Pooran] was to absorb as much pressure as possible and find a way to transfer that pressure on the back end. Pooran actually made it easier for me. I don't think I hit my targets the way I wanted to, but I'm just happy to bat as deep as possible. The team really needed me and I'm happy to come up trumps for the team. Oh! I'm happy, anytime he [Pooran] is scoring runs we do well."
Since sliding down the order to No.4 this year, Hope has made scores of 128 (115), 16 (27), 54(60) and 132 (129). Hope and Pooran gave Rovman Powell and Jason Holder the ideal platform to launch from the get-to as West Indies put up 339 for 7.
"The aim is to get the best out of everyone in the team," Hope had said on the eve of the game. The first is to understand our game a lot more and getting there is a process. It's definitely not going to happen overnight, but the aim is to do whatever I can do for the team. But for our batters to understand their worth and have that self-belief in themselves to know: 'okay, I can get the job done for West Indies' and the more they can do that, I can see more consistent performances and hopefully it starts from tomorrow."
Captain Hope walked the talk along with his predecessor Pooran on Thursday and though it was only against an Associate team, the pair probably offered West Indies the new batting blueprint that they've been searching for in ODI cricket.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo