Pakistan offered everything in this match that they have embodied as a team over the last three years. There was an impressive debut by a pacer, the assured presence of Younis Khan – who clocked past 10,000 Test runs – and Misbah-ul-Haq in the middle order, a fifer for Yasir Shah and the ultimate drama as they set about chasing 32 to win the Test. In the end, they went past the total with seven wickets in hand, but not without a stutter.
It took all of 297.1 overs for Pakistan to beat West Indies by seven wickets – which, if not for the rain interruptions, would have been over in just over three days of play. As much as this has been another unwanted milestone in West Indies’ unhindered decline in Test cricket, it was a clinical display by the touring side.
The toss may have made a difference, possibly even the changed nature of the pitch due to rain, and much of the difference between the two sides was in the way they fared in the second innings, but that is not to take away from the fact that Pakistan never allowed the hosts to get an upper hand in the contest. At best, all they allowed them was some parity when Shane Dowrich and Roston Chase combined to put up a century stand on the opening day of the historic Sabina Park Test.
But barring that, West Indies were always on the catch up. Even if they got a couple of wickets in quick succession, Pakistan never let them get on top – best demonstrated by the way Misbah-ul-Haq played with the tail to help the visitors extend the first innings lead to 121, which made a massive difference in the context of the game. Pakistan’s approach in the game shuffled between the two extremes of passive and aggressive. However, what was heartening to see from the side, which has for long been as unpredictable as any in world cricket, was the confidence with which they executed their plans. There were no half measures and as a result, when the plans were implemented, West Indies lost out in trying to do too many things.
The erratic ways of the hosts continued as barring brief periods of play, West Indies looked far below the standards of most Test sides. It is a saga that has been spoken about for too long, but time and again, far too often, it fits the narrative as precisely.
When the two sides took the field on Tuesday morning, half an hour before the scheduled start, both began on a positive note. Pakistan started out with Mohammad Amir and Yasir Shah, who were operating on the stump to stump channel or just outside that. West Indies, too, began positively, but once the first wicket fell – Vishaul Singh, who was cleaned up by Amir – there was no stop on the procession.
Nightwatchman Devendra Bishoo played a fine hand of hanging around and scoring some crucial runs. His contribution helped the hosts clear the deficit and take a lead, but nothing substantial. Their heroes from the first innings – Chase and Dowrich couldn’t contribute much in the second essay either. While Dowrich was trapped leg-before off the second ball for a duck, Chase kept running out of partners. He remained unbeaten, but couldn’t farm the strike as well as Misbah did in Pakistan’s first innings and eventually saw his side bundle out for 152. Yasir Shah, who had bagged four wickets on Day 4, added two more to return with innings figures of 6 for 63.
With a target of 32 to win, West Indies had given themselves very little runs to play with. But bet on Pakistan to make contests more exciting than other teams can. Openers Ahmed Shehzad and Azhar Ali departed with the scoreboard reading seven runs to the credit of the visitors. With eight runs needed, even Younis Khan got out, but that was all for the excitement and the drama as Misbah-ul-Haq came and hit Devendra Bishoo out of the park twice in three balls to complete the formalities. West Indies didn’t have more reasons to celebrate.
In a commanding fashion, far more than they did in the last few minutes of the game, Pakistan took a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Brief Scores: West Indies 286 (Roston Chase 63, Jason Holder 57*, Shane Dowrich 56; Mohammad Amir 6-44) & 152 (Kieran Powell 49; Yasir Shah 6-63) lost to Pakistan 407 (Misbah-ul-Haq 99*, Babar Azam 72; Alzarri Joseph 3-71, Shannon Gabriel 3-92) & 36/3 by 7 wickets