Andre Russell bowled just three overs against Pakistan at Trent Bridge on Friday. But it might as well be argued that those three overs had a greater impact on the match than any bowled by the player-of-the-match Oshane Thomas [4/27].
Russell’s bowling brought back memories of a time when the West Indies fast bowlers would often bounce and bowl the opposition into submission. Pakistan had made their way to 33/1 after 5 overs when skipper Jason Holder decided to take himself out of the attack and introduce Russell instead.
And that is where the match flipped on its head.
During the hostile three-over spell, Russell delivered 16 straight short-pitched balls, conceded just four runs, bowled one maiden over and claimed two wickets. It put the fear of the short ball into the minds of the Pakistan batsmen and suddenly every other West Indian bowler seemed to have the same idea.
World Cup 2019: Read West Indies vs Pakistan match report HERE
The idea, itself, isn’t a new one. The short ball has always been a potent weapon and few have used it better than the West Indian teams of the past. When Clive Lloyd’s attack operated there were no restrictions on the number of bouncers per over — over after over, ball after ball… the idea was to pin opposing batsmen to the back foot.
And then after four or five short ones, slip in the sucker punch – a fast full delivery which was dragged on to the stumps or edged into the slips. They had the bowlers who were intimidating and accurate enough to do the job consistently as well. The formula saw them coast to easy victories in the World Cups of 1975 and 1979.
Holder didn’t give Russell any overs after that three-over burst but his bowling gave the West Indies attack a brutal edge. It also gave everyone a reminder of the all-rounder’s prowess as a bowler.
World Cup 2019: Read Twitter reactions to Pak’s collapse vs Windies HERE
“A lot of people have been saying I’m in the team as a big-hitting batter but they don’t remember I’m a fast-bowler,” said Russell after finishing with figures of 2/4 from his three overs.
“I think they underestimate me.
“I’ve been jealous in the past couple of years because people have me down as a medium-pacer. When I see ‘Andre Russell’ come up on the big screen and I see ‘medium-pacer’, I’m like, ‘who are they talking to?’.
“Actually, I’m annoyed. Who’s responsible for that stuff should change medium-pacer to fast. At the end of the day, I’ve showed them I can bowl 90 mph. I think they should put some respect by my name. Today, when you turn up and see a [bouncy] pitch like that, it gives you a vibe to bowl fast, energy to bowl fast.”
Russell said he was unfazed by the hostility he received from the large Pakistani contingent in the crowd for bowling too many bumpers.
“I don’t mind the crowd booing,” he said. “The short balls were our strategy and I’m just doing my job. I know if I bowl fuller and get hit back over my head, they will be cheering a four or a six. You can’t please the fans all of the time.
“It takes a lot of energy to bowl that way. When I came off the field one of my teammates asked how I was feeling after six short balls in one over. I said, ‘I feel tired’. But I know I only have three overs to bowl at once I leave everything on the park, I can cool down and come back for another three overs later.”
World Cup 2019: Read complete coverage HERE
Natural flair has never been the problem for the West Indies but in recent times, welding that flair with smart cricket has proved to be too great a challenge. Pakistan didn’t help their cause by playing some very poor cricket but such a performance will give the West Indies bowling attack a lot of confidence.
It might also make other teams wary of how this West Indies attack might choose to come at them. Will they stick to the short balls? Will they go with a more conventional approach? The team from the Caribbean came into the tournament banking on their batting strength but if their bowling can rise to the occasion, they become even more dangerous.
They tend to play to their own rhythm but once they gather a head of steam, West Indies can be hard to stop. Russell and Chris Gayle might be the established stars who did the trick against Pakistan but the comprehensive win showed that they aren’t dark horses, rather they are proper contenders and they are just getting started now.