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The Simmons no-show chokes up West Indies

Simmons attacked just five off his 35 balls, leaving Gayle, Hetmyer, Pollard and Russell little time to cover up

Deivarayan Muthu
You are an opener in T20 cricket. Your job is to maximise the powerplay, more so in the UAE, where it is fiendishly difficult to get the ball away in the slog overs. If you are an opener in a line-up that has Chris Gayle, Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and Dwayne Bravo in the middle order, you can give it a no-holds barred whack at the top.
Okay, that no-holds barred approach backfired for West Indies in their opener against England at the same venue but holding yourself back so much that you barely attack could also hurt your team as much.
Lendl Simmons faced 35 balls - of which he attacked just five, including the one off which he was bowled for 16. Nineteen of his 35 balls dots and all of his 16 runs came via singles. According to ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats, which lends context to every performance, Simmons' runs had a negative impact of minus 36.77.
Temba Bavuma had thrown the new ball to Aiden Markram, letting the offspinner have a crack at both Simmons and the left-handed Evin Lewis. Simmons fell to offspin, trying to clear the midwicket boundary, in their opening game against England as well in the warm-ups against Afghanistan. Two days out of the match against South Africa, head coach Phil Simmons said the management was wary of similar dismissals and that they had discussed it with the entire group.
Perhaps, that was why Simmons was skittish off the four balls he faced against Markram. But then again, Simmons was literally and figuratively slow against the rapid pace of both Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada. He could've been dismissed off the 13th ball he faced when Nortje got one to seam away and snag the outside edge near the shoulder of the bat. However, Heinrich Klaasen, who had stepped in for Quinton de Kock, dropped the chance, with the ball wobbling away from his reach.
The chorus for the option to retire out in T20 cricket also got louder. Simmons' go-slow, however, continued, as did West Indies' struggles. Lewis had just cracked three sixes in six balls, but was under pressure to raise the tempo further as he holed out. Nicholas Pooran, who was promoted ahead of Chris Gayle, stepped out to his first ball reverse-swept his second for four. He had to take one risk after another to make up for Simmons' lack of intent and execution. Much like Lewis, Pooran holed out trying to clear the boundary.
In the next over, Simmons swung for the hills and was bowled by an in-to-the-pitch offcutter from Rabada. West Indies were 89 for 3 in the 14th over and ended up with an under-par 143 for 8, which South Africa chased down with eight wickets and 13 balls to spare.
Pollard refused to blame Simmons alone for West Indies' batting meltdown and instead put it down to a collective failure. All told, they ate up 54 dots in a pattern that was fairly similar to their opening game of the tournament where they played out 59 dots out of 86.
"These things happen," Pollard said at the post-match presentation. "Yes, he got stuck; after six overs he was there and we wanted to bat a couple of more overs without losing wickets. But, having said that we're not going to sit here and pinpoint anybody. You're not going to get me here, throwing my team-mates under the bus.
"But, at the end of the day he was out there trying to do a job for us. Yes, he couldn't get it done. When you look at it, Rassie (van der Dussen) played for them and the only difference is he came out not-out, but the strike rate was low as well. So, you're not going to get that from me. I thought it was a total disappointing batting effort in terms of not getting 160-plus."
Although Phil Simmons did not go so far as to say he regretted leaving Roston Chase out against England, it is, perhaps, time for West Indies to use him as a failsafe and restore some balance to the line-up. "The man who should be in for the next game brings a helmet on for Pooran," Ian Bishop said of Chase on the TV commentary when the allrounder was performing the 12th man duties in the chase.
West Indies' next match is against Bangladesh who could potentially have three left-handers in the top five. Chase could line them up with his offspin but for that West Indies first need to line up Chase in their XI.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo