KINGSTON, Jamaica – West Indies’ middle and lower order came to their rescue as they recovered from a precarious 71 for 5 to end the opening day of the first Test against Pakistan at 244 for 7 at Sabina Park Friday.
Roston Chase and Shane Dowrich added 118 for the sixth wicket after Mohammad Amir had made three breakthroughs either side of lunch as Pakistan threatened to take a firm hold on the match.
Play was called off nine overs early, as the clouds that hovered above for much of the day finally impacted the light enough to convince the umpires to lead the players off after just one over with the new ball, but the final session had not been short of action. Chase and Dowrich, whose partnership started in the first over after lunch, took their stand to three figures but just as it looked like Pakistan were running out of ideas the breakthrough came via a miraculous diving catch on the boundary to dismiss Chase, with Wahab Riaz taking a stunning grab running towards the long-on boundary.
The next ball, Dowrich was bowled by Yasir Shah as the visitors wrestled the advantage again, but some gutsy late hitting by Jason Holder and Devendra Bishoo ensured West Indies finished the day with some momentum, and a total to defend.
Pakistan were on top for much of the first day, but West Indies produced a heartening response after looking as though they could unravel when Amir and debutant Mohammad Abbas were operating with the new ball. Abbas claimed a wicket with his second delivery in Test cricket as Kraigg Brathwaite edged to second slip where Younis Khan snared another catch, reminding Pakistan it wasn’t just his runs they were going to miss when he hangs up his bat at the end of this Test series.
However, Abbas’ senior bowling partner was the man of the morning. Showing exquisite control, Amir produced one to dart back into the left-handed Shimron Hetmyer, one of two West Indians on debut. Hetmyer, who had for much of his short stay at the crease been chiefly concerned with Amir’s outswinger, was clearly unprepared for the change-up; Pakistan had almost begun celebrating by the time his bat came down. Four overs later, Amir castled Shai Hope with his stock delivery, swinging into the right-hander and sending his off stump cartwheeling.
When Wahab came on, the runs flowed a little more freely, the batsmen taking advantage of his slightly erratic length and relative lack of movement. Even so, he claimed the scalp of Vishaul Singh, also in his first outing, owing to a sharp catch at square leg from Azhar Ali, the batsman falling over to a ball drifting on to leg stump.
When Kieran Powell fell two deliveries after lunch, chasing a wide swinging delivery from Amir he would have been better off leaving alone, Pakistan would have harboured realistic hopes of dismissing West Indies for under 150, but Chase and Dowrich took control of the innings with a sense of grit and determination that supposedly better batsmen had been devoid of. They were excellent in trying circumstances, taking advantage whenever Yasir – who was inconsistent – missed his length, and punished Wahab when his line wavered. They did not panic when the runs dried up, but didn’t go back into their shells so much they couldn’t pounce on the poor deliveries.
Chase and Dowrich snapped back into a more aggressive mindset soon after tea, the latter rubber-stamping that fact by slashing Abbas for a pair of stylish square cuts and bringing up the 100-run stand moments later. It was then that the absence of a fifth bowling option began to hurt the visitors as they turned to Amir again, who they would ideally have wanted to rest until the new ball.
However, when this Test match has long been forgotten, all people will probably remember is how the sixth-wicket stand was broken. In a moment of play that almost defied belief, Chase struck a lofted drive off Yasir, looking for all the world like it would fetch him a boundary, despite Wahab, hardly a world-beating fielder, scampering back from mid-off. Wahab threw himself at the ball – even the technique looked all wrong – and somehow emerged with it in hand. The umpires asked for TV confirmation – perhaps they were just as astonished as everyone else.
The next ball, Dowrich was beaten for spin as he tried to drive Yasir along the ground, the ball thudding into his stumps: 189 for 5 had become 189 for 7 and, just like that, Pakistan again sensed a swift end to the innings.
However, no one appeared to have told Holder and Bishoo, who set upon Yasir in a display of counter-attacking hitting, not afraid to loft him in the air, earning multiple boundaries in return. They raced to a fifty-partnership at almost a run-a-ball, and continued to frustrate Pakistan as the new ball was taken.
Fortune came to their aid thereafter, as the new ball was only one Amir over old when the umpires decided this was no time of day to be facing fast bowling. Holder and Bishoo didn’t need to be told twice, sprinting off to the dressing room after living to fight another day.