ROSEAU, Dominica – West Indies safely negotiated an awkward last half hour to head to stumps without losing a wicket in response to Pakistan’s first innings total of 376 at the Windsor Park Ground Thursday.
Openers Kraigg Brathwaite and Keiron Powell were circumspect, eager to bat again Friday and technically adept enough to deserve it. That only 14 runs came off the 11 overs they faced will bother no one, considering Pakistan had trudged along in much the same way for almost two sessions.
On a day likely to be remembered for the pace, or the lack of it, Azhar Ali got his 14th Test hundred, and was supported by Misbah-ul-Haq and Sarfraz Ahmed as Pakistan looked set to bat through the day. However, West Indies bowlers came back into it in the final session as the last five Pakistan wickets fell for only 65 runs.
All eyes were on Sarfraz after tea, with Pakistan looking to inject some sorely lacking momentum into their innings. However, they were dealt a major setback early on in the session when Jason Holder took two wickets off two balls to send back Mohammad Amir and Yasir Shah.
With the score on 322 for 8, West Indies would have hoped to run through the last two batsmen and make Pakistan pay for their lack of intent earlier on. But Sarfraz maddened them by bringing his street-cricket skills to the fore. The wicketkeeper batsman basically took guard outside leg stump, forcing the bowlers off their lines, and collected 39 of the 45-run partnership between himself and Mohammad Abbas.
Just as Pakistan began to close in on 400, Sarfraz edged one from Devendra Bishoo into first slip’s hands. Hasan Ali came in and was good for a pair of lusty boundaries before Bishoo cleaned him up. Pakistan’s bowlers may still be favourites with a cushion of 376 runs behind them, but a top team should really aspire for more after batting nearly 150 overs.
West Indies formed their second guard of honour of the Test as they welcomed Misbah after dismissing Younis Khan lbw for 18 off 75 balls. Then they outdid their generosity by dropping the Pakistan captain, playing his last Test, on 0. Squared up by a ball that shaped away, Misbah looked back to see his outside edge being dropped by Shane Dowrich. It was the wicketkeeper’s second drop of the Test, and it left Holder, the bowler, buckling at the knees. Dowrich has had a horrid time behind the stumps in this Test.
West Indies, for all their struggle to pick up wickets, did keep things quiet with the old ball. Eventually, Shannon Gabriel took the new one in the 89th over, which only provided a fresh signal for Pakistan to retreat further into their shell. Misbah had, at that point, uncoupled batting with scoring runs completely, at one stage having one run off 52 balls. Azhar at the other end finished the morning with 37 runs off 92 balls as Pakistan achieved their objective of not losing too many wickets.
After lunch, however, Azhar was undone attempting a rare attacking stroke, a slog sweep over midwicket. He missed the ball by some distance it spun back into his stumps, bringing to an end a grinding hundred that had looked like hard work. The 32-year-old Ali faced 334 balls and struck eight fours and two sixes, and is now just 35 runs short of 5 000 runs in Tests. Flickering signs of aggression emerged from Asad Shafiq, as he looked to go over the top in a bid to improve his side’s desperately poor run rate. However, he picked out long-on to give offspinner Roston Chase the third of his four wickets.