Jon Coates,The Scotsman
Speculation about which West Indies would turn up in Ireland this week was answered within 30 overs of the quadrangular one-day international series that they are odds-on favourites to win.
Tuesday's opening gambit against was a complete mismatch from the moment Chris Gayle's team, resurgent after a limited-overs revival that allowed them to leave England laden with silver, routed the Dutch for 80 in a ten-wicket victory.
Ryan Watson's Scotland are next up for scrutiny. They take on the athletic, aggressive Caribbean professionals this morning at Clontarf in their first ODI since the World Cup, having lost a tilt at Pakistan to rain. The scene inspires happy memories - the Scots won the 2005 ICC Trophy in style on the Dublin ground - but the same cannot be said of the opposition. In their only previous official meeting with West Indies, at the 1999 World Cup, Scotland folded under blows from Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh to be all out for 68, their lowest tally on the elite stage.
However, John Blain is the only survivor of that side, and he will reference the Grace Road ordeal without despondency, having taken two cheap wickets in the West Indian reply. ODI newcomer Qasim Sheikh is the beneficiary of Gavin Hamilton's continued absence, but Warwickshire's Navdeep Poonia is the youngster most likely to be thrown into combat today, perhaps at No3. Omer Hussain and Gordon Drummond will grapple for the right to prop up the middle order.
Phil Simmons, the barrel-chested Jamaican who is now coach of Ireland, hedged his bets in Paisley last week when asked how professionally the West Indies would approach the thankless task of playing three European associates in conditions that suit them, yet where any slip-up would see them lampooned. "A lot will depend on their last match against England," said Simmons. Gayle's men won Sunday's finale with ease, and if they partied afterwards there was no evidence of hangovers on Tuesday.
West Indian cricket was given merciless stick during the English Test series but if these players are failing to honour their heritage, they are at least less vulnerable than their predecessors to a hoodwinking. Certainly there will be no repeat of Ireland's famous rout when Garry Sobers and co were bowled out for 25 in 1969 in a surreal haze of Guinness, and if the hosts managed to repeat their more credible triumph of 2004 it would probably even surprise Simmons, who has not yet been able to pick from the full-strength squad that stunned the world in Jamaica.
Still, you can never be quite sure what to expect from the descendants of a dynasty who contradict themselves so often. "This is a time when you always feel you have a chance against them," admitted Simmons. "That's the way it is now."
Ticket prices have been set deliberately low by the Irish Cricket Union but today's audience, on neutral ground, stands to be one of the lowest to witness Scotland in one-day international combat. Yet there are shards of hope that those lucky 100 or so will witness history. Were Scotland to win, they would join Ireland on the main table of the ICC's ODI ranking structure. The qualification criteria are two victories over full members (Kenya were beaten in January) and a 60 per-cent record of success against fellow associates, which Scotland currently boast.
However, after the stramash of Peter Drinnen's messy removal as coach, any competitive performance from Watson's men would be well-received. The Scots have been under the cosh ever since their World Cricket League success in Nairobi and the Netherlands, who consigned them to a dishonourable World Cup exit, can now testify to the ruthlessness of the West Indies when their wheels are in spin. "They seem to have a good grasp of English seam conditions, and their attack is not all about pace," said Scotland wicketkeeper Colin Smith.
"West Indies are not as strong as Australia or South Africa and not as consistent, but on their day they are very, very good. We will need to be at the top of our game to have a chance.
"Having said that, this is a new tournament for us and we often play our best cricket in tournament situations."
Scottish cricket needs a run of positive results - the team moves to Belfast to face the Dutch tomorrow and their hosts on Sunday - but so does West Indian cricket, and their team is fit and jubilant. An upset today would feature prominently in the pantheon.
Scotland probable: F Watts, M Haq, N Poonia, R Watson (c), N McCallum, O Hussain, C Smith, C Wright, J Blain, G Rogers, D Nel.West Indies: C Gayle (c), Devon Smith, S Chanderpaul, M Samuels, R Morton, Dwayne Smith, D Sammy, D Ramdin, R Rampaul, D Powell, F Edwards.