It is 44 years since Patti Smith released her debut album Horses, a volcano of a record that was not just startlingly vivid and assured for a debut but also a genre-busting game changer. With its boundary-crossing blend of Sixties rock’n’roll, scratchy punk spirit and Smith’s visionary lyrics, it influenced (and continues to influence) generations of musicians, sounding nearly as fresh and fierce today as on its release. And it heralded the start of a long career that sees her continue to headline festivals and sell-out tours today, and had her crowned “the godmother of punk”.
Not that such things are important to the 72-year-old Smith: “I’ve been called so many different labels, and I’ve been in and out of fashion, and I don’t care: I just do my work,” she says over the phone from New York, in an interview to discuss her latest project. It’s a poetry-soundscape record charting the French dramatist and poet Antonin Artaud’s attempt to cure his heroin addiction through a shamanic peyote trip in a remote Mexican canyon in the 1930s.
That’s niche by anybody’s standards. But then Smith has never courted chart hits or fame for fame’s sake – although she did make the top five in the UK with the enduring classic “Because the Night”, her recasting of a Bruce Springsteen song, in 1978, and followed it up with her most commercial album, Wave (1979), which included one of her most loved songs, “Dancing Barefoot”. But in 1980, she backed away from the pop world, got married – to MC5 guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith – and left her beloved New York to move to Michigan and raise two kids, Jackson and Jesse. Smith didn’t release any music for almost a decade.
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Her return came in 1988, with the album Dream of Life, which included what has become her live anthem, “People Have the Power” – a track which should be cheesy, yet winds up gloriously rousing when sung by thousands of Smith’s dedicated fans. Even then, it wasn’t a full return to rock’n’roll: although she toured occasionally, there wasn’t another album till 1997’s Peace and Noise. Since then, her career has continued bubbling away fruitfully, if often unexpectedly. There have been albums, most notably the well-received Banga in 2012, and tours, including the Horses 40th anniversary shows in 2015. But there have also been art shows of her photographs, poetry collections, activism, and memoirs (including the wonderful Just Kids about her early life in New York with her then lover, the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe).
It all amounts to a steadily building influence, as generation after generation continue to discover her, fall in love with her – her music, but also her persona. The poet within the punk. And that includes her image: from the hugely influential, super-cool androgyny of the cover of Horses (taken by Mapplethorpe) to her long, natural, unkempt grey locks today, Smith has never been one to give a s*** about how women are “meant” to look, either. Part of the appeal of Patti has always been that she follows her own path.
And her latest project is certainly a testament to that restless, anti-commercial spirit. The Perfect Vision is a triptych of albums blending incantatory poetry with evocative soundscapes. The first record – The Peyote Dance – was released this week.
It’s a fascinating project brimming with pretty wild characters and stories. The three albums look at the questing personal and geographical journeys taken by three French poets – Artaud (1896-1948), Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) and René Daumal (1908-1944) – in search of transcendental experiences of the eternal, or the absolute. The sonic landscapes were recorded by the Soundwalk Collective, aka Stephan Crasneanscki and Simone Merli, who have been creating experimental music since 2000. Their work on The Peyote Dance is designed to capture something of the different places the poets travelled to: Mexico, of course, for Artaud; Ethiopia, for Rimbaud; and for Daumal, India.
Crasneanscki and Merli followed in the poets’ footsteps, in order to make field recordings and to collect items, from rocks and branches to earth and sand to local instruments, that could be used back in their studio in New York to recreate a Mexican canyon, or a Himalayan summit.
“Stephan went to very difficult, treacherous places in order to get a beautiful soundscape for me,” Smith comments. “He will photograph the sound of the wind, and the rain.” When visiting the Tarahumara tribe Artaud spent time with, Crasneanscki also undertook a peyote ritual, taking the psychoactive cactus under guidance.
Still, fans of Smith’s work may not be totally surprised by this project. For a start, she first worked with Soundwalk Collective in 2016, setting the poetry of singer Nico to soundscapes. But it’s also clear that she considers herself more poet than pop icon.
Smith began her career dreaming of becoming a poet. She had left her family home in New Jersey, after having a child and giving it up for adoption, at the age of 20, and headed to New York. “I thought most of the poetry readings I went to were boring, and it just wasn’t my scene,” she recalled in an interview with America’s National Public Radio in 2015. “So I started pursuing different venues to perform my poetry… I’d play, like, in a bar that had, like, a little rock band and some little blues band and I’d go on before the blues band.”
It was a baptism of fire, and she became a ferocious performer, shouting down the – often drunk – men who heckled her. But sharing the bill with bands would transform her life: she began collaborating with the guitarist Lenny Kaye (who still plays with her today), who would improvise music alongside her words. Horses grew out of this combination of poetry and spirit, rhythm and music.
Her mission, she said in the same NPR interview, was really “to merge poetry and rock’n’roll … I wasn’t thinking so much of perfection or stardom or any of that stuff. I thought I would do this record and then go back to my writing and my drawing … But Horses took me on a whole different path.”
One of her biggest influences was always Rimbaud; an early poem about him is titled “Dreams of Rimbaud”, and he gets a namecheck in “Land” on Horses. Of Artaud, meanwhile, she comments that she’s been reading him all her life, having discovered his poetry as a teenager. “I was drawn to him because of his visceral language,” she tells me, her voice a low drawl, gravelly but gentle. “His mind was very unique and expansive, somewhat chaotic but extremely articulate. There was a lot to be learned from him.”
Does she find common ground, then, between these writers and pop or punk musicians? “My personal definition of punk rock was always freedom,” she tells me. She speaks slowly, carefully – measured answers that are turned over before they’re delivered, in order to not seem too pat, too simple. And I can feel just a curling edge of scorn in her voice at any question from me that she deems too pat, too simple. Yet there’s generosity and expansiveness in her answers, too, whenever she gets on a roll with a topic (especially if that topic is the new record, of course).
Smith points out that, in different eras, the essence of punk-rock freedom might be expressed in different ways. “You could say that Mozart was a punk rocker!” she says. “I was just looking at an article today about a [British rock] group called Fat White Family, and I liked very much the things that they were saying, because their whole idea is that punk rock isn’t just reactionary, but is in pursuit of the new, of making space, of not being confined or defined.”
Artaud, Rimbaud and Daumal would all fit that definition, she suggests. “All three of them were very much seeking the new, seeking to topple the gods of the past.”
Smith’s relationship with the French-born, New York-based Crasneanscki began through pure coincidence: they were sitting next to one another on a plane. “We just couldn’t stop talking about music and sound and travelling,” he recalls, and the very next day she came over to his studio to begin working on the Nico project. “We understood each other. She’s an inspiration for me, and a gift.”
The Perfect Vision trilogy came about following the pair’s long, rambling walks through New York, talking poetry. Both of them are extremely serious about it; many would call this seriousness “pretentiousness”. But there’s also something appealingly pure and distilled in the way they talk about these dead poets, and of their searches for internal, eternal truths.
And do any of the writers find their “perfect vision”, I ask Crasneanscki. “Yes, but it comes and goes very quickly, it’s a transient moment,” he answers. “It’s a vision that allows you to see an absolute truth: a space where there is no beginning and no end. But it’s a space we have such a hard time accessing because we are so little in the present.”
For Smith, recording the albums became a process of actually channelling the deceased French dudes. It happens, too, when she’s performing her own music sometimes – she finds herself “channelling the audience”. Which might sound hippie-ish, but anyone who’s seen Smith perform live, on a good day, will know what she’s talking about. She seems to harness a tremendous, collective shared feeling, her concerts becoming uplifting or moving in the way that’s hard to define, but deeply felt.
“It doesn’t always happen, and I don’t do anything special, it’s just you find yourself channelling the people as they maybe channel you. It’s transference of energy. In the act of performing, sometimes you enter into other spheres. I can’t break it down for you,” she adds, just a little testily, as if I’ve asked how a magic trick is done. “It just happens.”
The same thing happened when recording these albums. “After some hours in the studio you find almost a loss of self, you’re entering into another realm,” Smith recalls, adding that it’s been a great journey and learning experience half a century into her career. “You have to approach all three writers without fear, especially as they’re all male voices, European voices… So I had to just not be intimidated by any of that and not feel confined by my own preconceptions – just be like a human can opener, and open everything up!”
Was performing the record physically demanding? “Well yes it’s demanding, because the language isn’t mine so I have to surrender to it, and then journey within it. And you keep pushing and pushing to go further and further. In the end, I feel like I’ve done an opera or something,” she concludes with a slight but throaty laugh.
The Peyote Dance gets its title from Artaud’s now out-of-print book about his Mexican experiences. Artaud suffered from mental health issues throughout his life, and was at this stage, in his late thirties, in the grip of a heroin addiction. He’d heard that he could be healed by the indigenous Tarahumara Indians’ shamanic peyote rites, and after giving some lectures in Mexico City, headed for the Sierra Tarahumara in the Chihuahua region.
“He spent four weeks on horseback with no drugs, in great pain, going down this canyon searching for a shaman who would allow him to do a peyote ceremony in order to get rid of the addiction,” says Crasneanscki. “And it worked.”
The ceremonies brought Artaud “great joy and vision”, he adds. At the end of his life, Artaud wrote about how those days were the “happiest” of his life. Not that you’d necessarily know that from this record, with its whispery soundscapes and ritualistic drums, is often dark, and intense, Smith growling and intoning Artaud’s gut-churning imagery.
Several tracks offer insight into what Artaud’s peyote ceremony entailed: they describe the “Rite of the Black Sun” and the “Rite of the Black Night”. The Tarahumara’s religious practice blends elements of their indigenous faith with Roman Catholicism, and in Artaud’s account, there are descriptions of night-long ceremonies, where men, representing suns and carrying crosses, leap in circles or roll on the ground then “spring up successively like sunflowers”. An anthropological study it is not, but Artaud’s rather feverish verse does provide some record of the practice.
“He beautifully preserved [the Tarahumara’s] rite. He has given us a piece of very important history,” says Smith. And The Peyote Dance also features one new song by Smith, a comparatively pretty and direct folky number, imagining the release of Artaud’s last hours (he spent most of the rest of his life in insane asylums).
Crasneanscki’s own journey to the Tarahumara tribes wasn’t significantly easier than Artaud’s: the region is now one the most dangerous in all of Mexico, thanks to drugs trafficking. “You have to be courageous, and just do what you have to do, and not worry,” says Crasneanscki, zen-like.
Maybe the peyote helps: he, too, took it a trip and describes a powerful experience of interconnectedness. “Suddenly you are understanding yourself not as a human but a living organism in the same way as all those around you, on a molecular level; there’s no more separation between you and the universe.”
The Tarahumara tribespeople were extremely welcoming, he recalls. “When you tell them you are on the trail of a poet who once lived with their father or grandfather, they are very touched by it. People were very kind, and very happy and proud of their culture.” Crasneanscki even met the grandson of the shaman who had cured Artaud of his addiction.
It strikes me that The Perfect Vision is a project ripe and bursting with ideas, even if the audience for challenging poetry, transcendental experiences and found landscape sounds may be rather small. But it’s certainly genre-busting, and in that it also fits Smith’s pursuit of the new, the not-easily-defined. “These three albums don’t really fall into any category,” agrees Smith.
One of the things we spend a lot of time hand-wringing over these days is algorithm culture, where streaming services with their “recommended for you” suggestions can flatten and streamline our creative consumption; despite having all music ever at our fingertips we may be drawn to the addictive hit of the familiar, the playlisted.
How does it look from where Smith is sitting, with a long view on this often fickle industry? How has her accidental profession changed and morphed over the past 50 years?
“I grew up in the Fifties when we had no way to share things, you had to really seek things,” she says, describing how even an Edith Piaf or, later, a Bob Dylan record had to be really hunted out.
“And in some ways, I would hate to think that people are losing their adventurous spirit of seeking things. But on the other hand, a lot of things are made available that weren’t available to me when I was young. You’d only get a chance to see a Godard movie once every 10 years!”
She laughs, acknowledging that every new generation will – must – transform the world for themselves. And that includes music, so there’s no sense worrying too much that streaming services will kill ingenuity, or that the digitisation of music has killed the album.
“They decide how they want to listen to music, how they are going to create music. I’m 72 years old, I’m certainly not going to make a judgment on how a 20-year-old listens to music!” she laughs.
“My only advice is: don’t be a slave to technology – technology should be your servant.”
The arguments against HS2 are simple, and superficially attractive: why are we spending £55bn on a high-speed line between London and the north, when commuters outside the southeast are cramming onto unreliable, expensive, and infrequent old trains?
The latest polling shows the new railway is unpopular, and Tory leadership wannabes are circling to scrap it, hoping to win the affections of their party members, who hate it even more than the general public.
The government has failed to make the case for HS2. So allow me to make it here, because it’s actually a very good idea.
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Those concerns about overcrowded, creaking commuter trains are real: but they cannot be solved without HS2, or something extremely similar. The problem is that explaining why is quite complicated, so politicians haven’t really tried.
Some people seem to think HS2 is about “knocking 35 minutes off London to Birmingham”. It isn’t. Yes, it will dramatically reduce journey times: the whole project will cut London-Manchester from two hours to one; it takes around an hour off the journey to Scotland; Birmingham to Newcastle is cut from three hours 15 minutes down to two hours. Birmingham to Nottingham, which currently takes over an hour, falls to an almost ridiculous 19 minutes. One misconception is that these will be special “high-speed” premium services with higher ticket prices for rich passengers. That isn’t true – these will be the ordinary journey times between those cities, integrated into the existing network.
But speed is not the main point of the new line. The objective is capacity, and not just capacity for fast intercity services, either, but for those local regional and commuter services between small towns that have been so neglected. The complicated bit is explaining why that is.
Britain’s railways were largely built in the Victorian era, for a different kind of travel. Today, the same lines carry a mix of express intercity trains – the kind which HS2 will take – and stopping local and commuter services, the kind people use to get to work, or pop to a neighbouring town.
This mix is a very inefficient way to run a railway, for a reason that is quite obvious if you think about it: trains cannot overtake each other on the same set of tracks. They would bang into the back of one another if they tried. Not good. To get around this, local stopping trains need a large gap behind them in the timetable, so the express trains behind them do not catch up. That reduces the number of trains you can have per hour on a line, dramatically reducing its capacity for every type of service – local and express.
The engineering thinking behind HS2 is to take those express services off the older mainlines, leaving them for stopping local and commuter services. When trains are all travelling at roughly the same speed on a line, you can fit a lot more in, because the gaps needed between them are smaller.
HS2 will take express trains off the West Coast Main Line that links London with Birmingham and the cities of the northwest; the Midland Main Line that links London with the East Midlands and Sheffield; and to an extent the East Coast Main Line that goes up to Leeds and Newcastle. That frees up capacity across a huge swathe of the country for local services, and it’s the whole rationale behind the project. That the government hasn’t been explaining this ad nauseum is inexcusable.
So if the plan is to improve commuter services, why not build a new commuter line instead of a new one for expresses? It wouldn’t make sense: these existing lines are already good for slow trains, and they go into the centres of towns and cities, which have since expanded around them. A new high-speed line for expresses can make use of engineering advances since the 19th century to speed up journeys, and doesn’t have to go into as many built up areas as a local line would, where the need for tunnelling and demolitions would make it more expensive and disruptive. And making a line high-speed doesn’t actually cost that much more, either, if you’re building one anyway. But the key point is that local services benefit, despite the new line being for express trains.
HS2 will also bring other direct benefits to cities and towns that aren’t London. Northern Powerhouse Rail (stupid name) is the government’s plan to connect up the cities of the north of England with high-speed rail. It’s currently in development, but the plan, as put together by northern councils, relies on vast sections of HS2 track. Liverpool to Manchester; Sheffield to Leeds and towards York and Newcastle – these bits of NPR will use parts of HS2.
The government arguably made a huge mistake by starting planning on the NPR scheme so late, leaving people wondering why they were prioritising journeys to London – but with Labour and the Conservatives both committed to the project, it is likely to happen. HS2 and better connections between non-London cities aren’t an either/or: the two projects are intrinsically linked. If HS2 is scrapped, who knows when a government will next be brave enough to try a major rail project again.
In the meantime, the West Coast Main Line is filling up, and can’t wait. The reason ticket prices are a rip-off from London to Manchester (£175 for a walk-up, one-way, anytime ticket is absurd no matter what cheap advance fares are available – sometimes you just have to travel) is because the trains are running completely full and Virgin can charge what they like and still have a passenger in every seat – and sometimes the floor. The number of passengers using the route doubled between 1997 and 2005, and it is well on its way to doubling again. The huge capacity increase that HS2 brings is a response to that.
It’s understandable that people are sceptical of a project that has been badly explained, when it isn’t obvious why it deals with the biggest problems they see with the railways. That said, some criticisms are red herrings. Take the environmental impact: over the 140 miles of HS2 line, 29 hectares of ancient woodland will be felled. Sounds bad? But for comparison, a single 2.5-mile road scheme, widening the A21 in Kent and Sussex (not even a new road!), will take down nine hectares, around a third of HS2’s phase 1 total. Extinction Rebellion are barking up the wrong tree on this one; far more road schemes will be needed if we can’t shift traffic to more efficient rail, and that means building more capacity. High-speed rail has also proven the greenest way to get people off short-haul flights, dominating routes like London-Paris or Madrid-Barcelona, where polluting planes would otherwise be king. Long term, it’s good for the environment. And new trees are being planted elsewhere to replace the ones cut down.
Any large project will be disruptive, but compared to the other options, HS2 is actually pretty good. Consider one much-touted alternative: upgrading the West Coast Main Line with an extra pair of tracks for more capacity. There are several thousands houses built facing onto the line, and you’re going to need to knock them down to put a railway there. And it won’t be high-speed, it’ll be more expensive to do it, and it’ll be massively disruptive – not just for people losing their homes, but passengers who would face about a decade of closures and replacement buses. The more general problem with suggestions that existing lines should simply be “upgraded” (a rather vague proposal) is that there are simply diminishing returns to what you can do with 150-year old infrastructure. The West Coast Main Line already benefited from a major upgrade programme ending in 2005; it took a decade of disruption and cost over £10bn in today’s money, provided only a fraction of the benefits of HS2, and is already full. Plans to upgrade it further were abandoned because they weren’t seen as practical, and planning for a new line that became HS2 is a direct result of that process.
Will HS2 suffer from cost overruns? Probably. Delays? You bet. Infrastructure projects are rarely delivered on time anywhere in the world, not least in western democracies with little things like rule of law and environmental regulation. But once they are finally delivered, nobody cares: you probably don’t even remember that the Channel Tunnel or Jubilee Line extension were fiascos in their time; nobody would get rid of them now. HS2 will be the same. It won’t solve every problem with the UK’s rail network, but it is a necessary part of solving a hell of a lot of them. If it gets scrapped, in 10 years’ time people will be talking about building something very similar, and moaning that we didn’t get on with it when we had the chance. Probably while they sit on the floor of an overcrowded train.
West Indies produced a blistering bowling display to crush Pakistan by seven wickets and begin their World Cup campaign with an emphatic victory at Trent Bridge.
The two-time champions bowled Pakistan out for just 105 in 21.4 overs – their second lowest total in World Cup history.
All 10 wickets fell to seam with the West Indies bowlers quick and hostile in front of a crowd vociferously in support of Pakistan in Nottingham.
Oshane Thomas took 4-27, captain Jason Holder 3-42 and Andre Russell a brilliant 2-4 in three overs as only two Pakistan batsmen passed 20.
Chris Gayle smashed 50 from 34 balls with three sixes to give West Indies’ chase a quick start and, despite three wickets for Mohammad Amir, the win was sealed with 36.1 overs remaining when Nicholas Pooran smashed a huge six.
The bowling performance only strengthens the view that West Indies could be serious contenders to win their first 50-over World Cup since 1979, while it is a miserable start for Pakistan who won the Champions Trophy in England just two years ago.
In recent years, it is their big-hitting batting which has caught the eye but here it was quick bowling reminiscent of West Indies sides of old that set pulses racing.
They repeatedly banged the ball in short and the Pakistan batsmen had no answer, with six wickets falling to short balls.
All-rounder Russell – one of West Indies star players who has returned to the team for this World Cup – was introduced early and bowled almost exclusively quick, short deliveries.
He dismissed opener Fakhar Zaman with a brutal delivery that hit the batsman’s grille and rebounded onto the stumps, and soon after had Haris Sohail caught behind when the batsman top-edged another bouncer.
Russell’s spell inspired the remaining bowlers to follow a similar method and Oshane Thomas had Babar Azam, who looked Pakistan’s best batsman in scoring 22, caught behind off another fast delivery.
That made the score 62-4 and Thomas and Holder took the remaining six wickets with only another 43 runs added to the total.
The only truly full delivery which claimed a wicket was the final one with Thomas clattering into Wahab Riaz’s stumps to complete the rout.
Pakistan fall flat in front of ‘home’ crowd
The batting performance was even more disappointing from a Pakistan perspective given the large amount of support they received at Trent Bridge.
When the ball was hit by Pakistan batsmen it was roared to the boundary as the supporters chanted, blew horns, banged drums and waved flags.
The Pakistan batsmen seemed not to learn after repeated mistakes against the short ball but their fans still celebrated wildly when number 10 Wahab hit a six to take their total beyond 100.
Spread among the Pakistan supporters were pockets of West Indies fans, who sprung up in support of their team when a Pakistan wicket fell. They also urged on Russell during his hostile spell with one voice among a sea of Pakistan shirts shouting: “Yes Dre Russ! Shake him up.”
Amir’s name was chanted loudly during the West Indies chase after he gave his side slim hope but the majority of the near-capacity crowd – which was refunded in full if they entered after 10:30 BST following issues at the ticket collection points – was left disappointed with the result.
Despite less than 40 overs being bowled, the game was played against a backdrop of noise, excitement and colourful costumes.
The only potential negative for West Indies was the back injury Gayle looked to have sustained while batting, while Russell also received treatment at one stage.
Both are expected to be fine for their side’s next game against Australia on Thursday.
Pakistan play England on Monday, again at Trent Bridge.
‘We want to play fearless cricket’ – what they said
West Indies captain Jason Holder: “Oshane Thomas is a good, young quick: we know he can be expensive at times but he’s a genuine wicket-taker and that’s a gamble worth taking. With such high totals you need wickets in one-day cricket.
“Chris Gayle started us off tremendously and it eases the pressure in a chase like this. I’ve seen a lot of teams mess up short chases but Chris imposed himself on it.
“We wanted to start with a win, we’ve been anxiously waiting for this first game and it’s good to get through it.
“We’ve definitely come to win this World Cup but I just want us to enjoy our cricket, play fearless cricket and make the fans back home proud.”
Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed: “It was a bad day for us but I’m very confident my team will bounce back.
“It was good to see Mohammad Amir bowl well, but Chris Gayle knows how to play this type of cricket.
“The support in England is always excellent so thanks and carry on please.”
Duncan Folkes, a reader of the BBC cricket live text: “You should all put a tenner on Pakistan to win the tournament.
“I was in Australia for the tournament in 1992 and they were abject, got very lucky (England bowled them out for 70-odd and only rain kept them in the cup).
“They slowly got better and better and then beat England in the final!”
Chris Gayle broke the record for the most sixes in World Cup history on his way to smashing a half-century in the West Indies’ comprehensive seven-wicket win over Pakistan at Trent Bridge.
At a ground synonymous with mammoth totals in one-day internationals in recent years, Pakistan’s carelessness in the face of the short-ball tactic meant they crumpled to 105 all out in 21.4 overs.
Oshane Thomas was the main beneficiary with four for 27 on his tournament bow before Gayle took centre stage amid a blizzard of boundaries as the Windies overhauled their target with 36.2 overs to spare.
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There will be fears over the 39-year-old’s fitness after he seemed to injure his lower back shortly before his dismissal but his 50 from 34 balls quietened a largely pro-Pakistan crowd.
His day was made easier by Pakistan posting their second worst World Cup score after being invited to bat first, as the pace quartet of Thomas, Jason Holder, Andre Russell and Sheldon Cottrell shared all 10 wickets.
It was Russell, playing in only his third ODI since November 2015, who laid the blueprint for the rest to follow as his introduction hastened Pakistan’s demise.
A persistent knee injury since completing a 12-month doping whereabouts suspension in January 2018 has impeded Russell’s progress but he was recently named most valuable player at the Indian Premier League.
And after Imam-ul-Haq was strangled down the legside for two off Cottrell, prompting the left-arm seamer’s now customary march and salute celebration, Russell came to the fore.
A brute of a bouncer caught Pakistan dangerman Fakhar Zaman by surprise and he missed an attempted pull, with the ball hitting the grille of his helmet before dislodging the bails.
Russell showed no inclination of abandoning the ploy, which left Haris Sohail routinely troubled and, perhaps anticipating another lifter, the batsman could only get an edge behind when one was angled across him.
Russell’s fiery spell ended with figures of 3-1-4-2 but Pakistan were given barely any respite following his surprise withdrawal from the attack.
The in-form Babar Azam was dropped at backward point on 12 but could add only another 10 runs before he edged a rising, wider delivery from Thomas to wicketkeeper Hope, who took a brilliant catch diving to his right.
Hope had his fourth catch of the morning when Sarfraz Ahmed gloved down the leg-side off Holder – the not out decision overturned on review – and Pakistan quickly subsided after their captain’s dismissal.
They added only another 30 runs for their final five wickets, largely thanks to some lusty blows from Wahab Riaz, one of only four Pakistan batsmen to reach double figures before being cleaned up by Thomas for 18 off 11 balls.
In response, Gayle made a rusty start but warmed to his task with back-to-back sixes off Hasan Ali, which took the evergreen opener past AB De Villiers’ record for the most sixes hit in the tournament’s history.
Mohammad Amir, who was passed fit after missing the recent England series, ensured there would be no abject surrender from Pakistan as he snared both Shai Hope and Darren Bravo.
Gayle was a long way from his fluent best but still brought up a 33-ball half-century, falling off the next delivery to Amir – as the left-armer found form by returning figures of three for 26.
Nicholas Pooran took up the baton and finished with 34 from 19 balls as the 1975 and 1979 champions started their tournament in ideal fashion, while Pakistan, winners in 1992, succumbed to their 11th successive ODI defeat.
West Indies can “take the World Cup by storm” with their aggressive “bumper warfare” style of bowling attack, says former England spinner Graeme Swann.
The pace attack of Andre Russell, Sheldon Cottrell, Oshane Thomas and captain Jason Holder ripped through Pakistan to set up a dominant seven-wicket win at Trent Bridge.
“Their approach is brilliant; it’s shocking and unexpected,” said Swann.
“Everyone expects wide yorkers, slower balls, but it was vintage stuff.”
Six wickets in the pitiful Pakistan innings of 105 fell to short bowling, with Russell in particular bowling almost exclusively quick bouncers.
The largely Pakistan-supporting crowd booed at times, wanting the umpires to give wides against Russell, but his deliveries were fair.
“No-one expects this any more – to run up and just get a barrage of short-pitched bowling,” said Swann.
“If it’s armpit height, it’s not called as the one short ball you’re allowed for the over. So if you’re skilful enough to bowl four, five of those an over, against a team like Pakistan who are notoriously hook happy, or flap happy as we call it, they’re going to take them on.
“West Indies just played an old-fashioned game, actually, that may just take this World Cup by storm because people simply aren’t used to it any more.
“It was a very simple method of bumper warfare. It was very good to watch.”
When asked if West Indies had an attack that can overwhelm opponents throughout the tournament, Russell said: “Yes, for sure.”
He added he was “annoyed” to be referred to as a medium pacer on the big screen when coming on to bowl.
“A lot of people have been saying I’m in the team as a big hitter but people don’t remember that I’m a fast bowler,” he said.
“They underestimate me and I’ve been getting jealous in the last two years that people have me as a medium pacer.
“But I showed here that I can bowl 90mph and they should put some respect on my name.”
‘Bouncers are part of cricket’
Sir Curtly Ambrose, who took 225 one-day wickets for West Indies between 1988 and 2000, said that aggressive, short-pitched bowling remains an important tactic in the game.
“Cricket is cricket and bouncers are part of cricket,” he said.
“I believe West Indies’ plan worked to perfection. They really hustled the Pakistan batsman, who had no answer, and they were really destroyed in the way they play.
“There’s no better sight in cricket than a great fast bowler versus a great batsman. Sadly it’s not [often] there any more.”
West Indies face Australia next – on Thursday – while Pakistan are likely to come up against more of the same against England on Monday.