SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates – West Indies were on the verge of their first Test win in 19 months and the first on foreign soil in four years but a nervous final day lay ahead of the unpredictable Caribbean side in their quest to capture the third and final Test against Pakistan.
Set a modest 153 for victory on the penultimate day of the contest at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium Wednesday, the Windies produced one of their now familiar implosions to slump to 67 for five on the stroke of the first hour after tea, before recovering to reach 114 for five at the close.
Once again, vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite was at the heart of the West Indies’ enterprise, stroking an unbeaten 44 in an unbroken 47-run, sixth wicket stand with wicketkeeper/batsman Shane Dowrich who was not out on 36.
Brathwaite, who carried his bat in the first innings for 142, has so far faced 88 deliveries and counted four fours while Dowrich has faced 61 balls and struck three fours and a six.
Together, the Barbadian duo propped up the innings which looked like coming apart at the seams when leg-spinner Yasir Shah ripped through the innings after tea, to finish with three for 30.
Left-arm seamer Wahab Riaz also snapped up two quick wickets for 30 runs as West Indies stumbled, jeopardizing their pursuit of a first Test win since they beat England in Bridgetown last year May.
West Indies require another 39 runs for victory on Thursday’s final day.
On a day when 11 wickets tumbled, captain and seamer Jason Holder captured his maiden five-wicket haul in Tests as Pakistan were dismissed for 208 in their second innings after resuming on 87 for four.
Opener Azhar Ali converted his overnight 45 into a top score of 91 while wicketkeeper/batsman Sarfraz Ahmed, unbeaten on 19 at the start, made 42.
The pair extended their fifth wicket stand to 86 before being separated as the hosts surrendered their last six wickets for 74 runs.
Holder claimed two of those wickets to end with superb figures of five for 30 while leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo picked up three for 46.
Pakistan safely navigated the first hour, with Azhar raising his 22nd Test half-century in the fifth over with a glance to the fine leg boundary off speedster Shannon Gabriel.
With the pair still entrenched at the first drinks break, West Indies made their first breakthrough two overs following the resumption when Bishoo had Sarfraz caught at slip by Darren Bravo, at 134 for five.
The right-hander faced 90 deliveries and struck four boundaries.
Azhar then combined with Mohammad Nawaz (19) in a 41-run, sixth-wicket partnership which took Pakistan to lunch at 159 for five and frustrated West Indies for half-hour following, before the collapse set in.
Nawaz had occupied the crease for 63 deliveries when he inside-edged a catch off Bishoo to Leon Johnson at short leg, at 175 for six.
The right-handed Azhar, unbeaten on 80 at lunch, followed four offers later, taken at slip by Bravo off Bishoo after striking six fours and a six off 234 balls, leading to a slide that saw the last four wickets tumble for 19 runs.
Mohammed Amir was comically run out for eight after Roston Chase jumped high at long on to foil a six and then sent an accurate return to the non-striker’s end to catch Amir short.
And Holder then cleaned up Wahab (1) and Yasir (0) in successive overs, to seal his five-wicket haul, 45 minutes before tea.
Pakistan then did themselves no favours, twice letting off opener Johnson inside the first three overs. The left-hander was put down off the fifth ball of the innings by captain Misbah-ul-Haq at third slip off Amir before he had scored, and also watched as Sami Aslam grassed another opportunity at point in Amir’s next over, when on three.
Unbeaten on 12 at tea with the Windies on 23 without loss, Johnson’s luck ran out in the second over after the break when he missed a pull at Yasir and was lbw in the bowler’s first over without adding, and Bravo completed a poor game when he departed in Yasir’s next over for three, caught behind as he played down the wrong line.
Marlon Samuels (10) halted the slide when he put on 22 for the third wicket with Brathwaite, but once he holed out off Yasir four overs before the drinks break, West Indies went into free fall again.
Eleven balls later, Jermaine Blackwood was comprehensively bowled by Wahab for four and Chase followed in the seamer’s next over for two, clipping a catch to mid-wicket.
Tottering badly, West Indies were bailed out by Brathwaite’s composure and Dowrich’s energy, in a stand that put them on course to break their 13-Test winless run and grab their first win in nine outings on tour.