West Indies were facing a daunting penultimate day of the second Test against Pakistan on Wednesday, after Azhar Ali struck his 13th Test hundred to put the visitors on top in the decisive contest at Kensington Oval.
Facing a deficit of 81 runs after Pakistan piled up 393 in their first innings, the West Indies finished today’s third day on 40 for one – still requiring a further 41 runs to make the Pakistanis bat again.
They suffered a blow in the 14 overs they were left to navigate at the end when left-hander Kieran Powell was brilliantly caught off the in-side edge by wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed, off the enterprising seamer Mohammad Abbas in the second over of the innings.
But novice left-hander Shimron Hetmyer, searching for his first score of note after failing in each of his three Test innings to date, stroked a breezy, unbeaten 22 off 34 balls to hold off the Pakistan attack.
Showing little signs of nerves, the 20-year-old pulled Abbas to the ropes at mid-wicket for his first scoring shot and then straight drove seamer Mohammad Amir and cover-drove leg-spinner Shadab Khan, to account for three of his four boundaries.
He was partnered by opener Kraigg Brathwaite who was unbeaten eight from 46 deliveries. Brathwaite is also in need of a significant score after failing in his previous three innings in the series so far.
Earlier, Azhar scored 105 to help Pakistan consolidate their overnight position of 172 for three, as West Indies struggled in the morning session and were forced to go wicketless.
For the second straight Test, captain Misbah-ul-Haq suffered heartbreak when he was dismissed on 99, while Yasir Shah chanced his hand with 24 from 31 deliveries to ensure the tail wagged.
Fast bowler Shannon Gabriel topped the hosts’ bowling with four for 81 while captain and seamer Jason Holder (3-42) and leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo (3-116) finished with three wickets apiece.
Azhar and Misbah blunted the West Indies attack in the morning session, gathering just 54 runs in 26 overs to push the visitors up to 226 for three at lunch.
Resuming the day on 81, the right-handed Azhar added a mere 13 runs to be unbeaten on 94 at the break but reached triple figures in the fifth over following the resumption when he cut Bishoo to the backward point boundary.
All told, he struck nine fours in a knock that spanned 278 deliveries and a shade over 7-1/2 hours.
He had put on 98 for the fourth wicket with Misbah when he finally perished in the seventh over after lunch, nicking a Bishoo leg-break behind at 259 for four.
Misbah, who started the day on seven, was unbeaten on 40 at lunch and raised his 38th Test half-century in the fourth over after the break when he cut off-spinner Roston Chase behind square for a single.
The 42-year-old celebrated by clearing the ropes at long on with Chase as he dominated a 57-run, fifth wicket stand with Asad Shafiq (15), to further strengthen Pakistan’s position.
Misbah, who was left stranded on 99 in the first innings of the Sabina Park first Test, cruised to the verge of an 11th Test hundred but then got himself in a tangle trying to leave alone one from Holder that bounced, and managed to edge to Shai Hope at second slip.
He faced 201 balls in just over 4-1/4 hours and struck nine fours and two sixes.
West Indies then homed in for the kill with Gabriel removing Sarfraz Ahmed for nine to a catch by Powell at slip and Holder trapping Shafiq lbw with the last ball before tea, to leave Pakistan on 329 for seven.
However, the Windies hopes of bringing a swift end to the innings were dashed when Shadab (16) put on 25 for the eighth wicket with Amir and another 30 for the ninth wicket with Yasir, as runs flowed at the end.