Christchurch: In a cage match in professional wrestling, one of the ways to win the contest is to climb out of the roofless cage that surrounds the ring. Matches are often tight tussles with only a few clear opportunities where one wrestler slithers away to the top of the cage and the other is lying inside the ring. Often, though, because wrestling is a spectacle and not quite a sport, the wrestler on the top of the cage chooses to jump back into the ring with an elbow drop or a leg drop or a frog splash. Often the other wrestler moves away just in time. The first innings of the league match between the two most frustrating sides in modern cricket was an unfinished cage match where the teams kept jumping back into the ring every time they had an opportunity to go the other way and end the contest then and there.

Who knows we might yet have us a spectacle to rival the best of cage matches after West Indies scored 310, a perfect neither-here-nor-there total in modern ODI cricket. In these two teams' respective first matches the first-innings score was around 300. West Indies never came close to defending that against Ireland in Nelson, and Pakistan never threatened to chase it against India in Adelaide. We might just get our first real thriller.

Even if there were not to be a thriller, the first innings of the match was almost cage-match comic in terms of errors. Pakistan dropped at least four catches, their field placements - seven-footer Mohammad Irfan at long-on during the slog - left a lot to be desired, their ground fielding was pedestrian, West Indies openers made no pretence of trying to guts it out during the opening exchanges, their set batsmen chose part-time spin of Haris Sohail to hole out to long-off to, and the general lack of urgency prevailed as their top order mostly played either-boundary-or-dot cricket.

There were flashes of brilliance too. Irfan made life difficult with uncomfortable bounce from just short of a length, and produced figures of 10-0-44-1. Wahab Riaz produced a special catch running in from fine leg. Denesh Ramdin produced the first bit of modern cricket in a match that looked straight out of the '70s with an urgent counterattack of 51 off 43 after West Indies had been 103 for 3 in the 25th over. Lendl Simmons continued his good form after the Ireland hundred with 50 off 46 to make sure West Indies didn't peter off in the end. He even sacrificed his wicket trying to go for a non-existent third off the last ball of the innings. Andre Russell produced a blinder of 42 off 13 balls to become the difference between 280 and 300.

West Indies began the match in a sea of trouble, and were asked to bat in fresh morning conditions. They had Pakistan's fielding to thank for. It was a matter of when and not if the openers would fail. Dwayne Smith was given some extra time, Chris Gayle wasn't. At 28 for 2 Marlon Samuels decided he was going to hit boundaries or nothing at all. Darren Bravo, although slow, provided the stability West Indies needed, and even Samuels settled into the stand. However, with the partnership reading 75 off 16.1 overs, Samuels picked out long-off with the first ball of the new spell of Haris.

Samuels and Smith had shown great self-respect in refusing to live off the Pakistan fielders' generosity, but the increments had been big enough to take West Indies close to the last 20 overs with wickets in hands. Ramdin then played what might be the decisive innings of the match. There was a certain intent to how he batted. Short-arm pulls, slog-sweeps, pinched singles, they threatened to run away with the game with 48 runs in 5.5 overs. Ramdin then showed more intent by calling for a Powerplay.

The next twist, a hamstring injury to Bravo minutes after he had been reprieved by Afridi. As he was taken off the field on the drinks cart, West Indies had to exercise some caution. Only 16 came in the Powerplay, but they didn't lose any wicket. Pretty soon Ramdin rediscovered his range, only to hit Haris straight down long-off's throat moments after bringing up his fifty. Once again a wrestler had brought the match back to life even when he could have ended that contest.

West Indies were now effectively 194 for 5 with 11 overs to go. Darren Sammy, a rare modern West Indies cricketer, didn't look in touch, but Simmons kept going. He targeted Haris sensibly to expose the lack of a fifth specialist bowler, hitting him for a six and two fours in the 42nd over. Some brilliance followed from Pakistan as Sohail Khan and Irfan conceded a total of 15 in 43rd, 44th and 45th overs. There was pressure, Simmons ramped Riaz straight to third man in the next over, but Irfan dropped him too.

Although Simmons added only six to his 44, Russell punished every little error in length by Pakistan. His hitting was flat and powerful. Pakistan, though, took the easier route of fancy deliveries as opposed to the yorkers that had effectively slowed India down in Adelaide. That AB de Villiers' record for the fastest fifty wasn't threatened was down only to the lack of balls left when Russell came out to bat.

Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo