Rain, Azhar frustrate West Indies

ROSEAU, Dominica, CMC – West Indies were frustrated by rainy weather along with half-centuries from Azhar Ali and Babar Azam, as Pakistan got the better of the exchanges on the opening day of the decisive third Test here Wednesday.

Rain, which savaged the post-lunch session, allowed for only 69 overs at Windsor Park, but Pakistan kept their wits about them to navigate the interruptions and reach 169 for two at the close.

Azhar was eyeing his second hundred of the series unbeaten on 85 while veteran outstanding right-hander Younis Khan, in his final match in international cricket, was on 10 not out.

Babar Azam struck a solid 55 but perished in the final session to be just one of two wickets to fall in the truncated day’s play.

He and Azhar added 120 for the second wicket after left-handed opener Shan Masood fell cheaply in the opening session for just nine.

The right-handed Azhar, who struck a century in the Kensington Oval Test last week, has faced 219 balls in a patient knock and struck seven fours and two sixes.

He now also requires 77 more runs to pass 5 000 runs in his 60th Test.

It was his enterprise which ensured Pakistan a productive first session after they were sent in by West Indies on a sluggish pitch offering precious little to the faster bowlers.

He and Masood looked at ease against new-ball bowlers Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph and West Indies turned to spin from as early as the ninth over, with the move paying dividends.

Chase, who beat Masood a couple of times with ones that spun, struck on the stroke of the first hour when he had the batsman edging a defensive prod low to captain Jason Holder at second slip with the score on 19.

However, Azhar and Azam then denied West Indies any further success, batting purposefully to guide Pakistan safely to lunch at 70 for one.

Azhar, in particular, showed positive intent, twice depositing Chase over the ropes – first over long on and then over mid-wicket – in successive overs.

Rain delayed the resumption by nearly 40 minutes and when play finally got underway, only two overs were sent down before the adverse weather returned to drive players from the field again, with Pakistan on 75 without further loss.

When play finally got underway again under clearer skies following the scheduled tea break, the Windies missed a chance to put Pakistan on the back foot when wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich dropped a chance off Azam on 28 after the right-hander edged leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo behind, in the third over after the resumption.

He made the most of the opportunity, gathering his fourth Test half-century in his ninth outing, all told spending 124 balls at the crease and striking three fours.

Operating in the fourth over of a new spell, Joseph got the breakthrough when he had Azam caught at first slip by Kieran Powell after the 22-year-old batsman tried to pull out of a stroke but managed instead to nick the ball into the cordon, leaving Pakistan on 139 for two.

Azhar, unbeaten on 36 at lunch, had earlier brought up his 26th half-century in Tests an hour after tea when he stroked Bishoo through point for a couple.

He then cashed in on loose balls from Holder, clipping the lanky seamer to the fine leg boundary and steering him over slips for another four, in an over that leaked 10 runs.

Azhar also slapped Gabriel behind point for his fifth four to move into the 70s before slog-sweeping Chase to the ropes at mid-wicket to ease into the 80s.

He has so far put on 30 with Younis who is yet to register a boundary in 44 balls at the crease.

The three-match series is tied 1-1.

PAKISTAN 1st Innings

Azhar Ali not out 85

Shan Masood c Holder b Chase  9

Babar Azam c Powell b Joseph  55

Younis Khan not out 10

Extras  (b1, lb4, w2, nb3) 10

TOTAL (2 wkts, 69 overs) 169

To bat: *Misbah-ul-Haq, Asad Shafiq, +Sarfraz Ahmed, Mohammad Amir, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali.

Fall of wickets: 1-19 (Masood), 2-139 (Azam).

Bowling: Gabriel 19-6-32-0 (w1, nb3), Joseph 14-4-39-1, Chase 10-3-27-1, Holder 14-4-30-0 (w1), Bishoo 12-0-36-0.

WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), Kieran Powell, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Roston Chase, Vishaul Singh, Shane Dowrich, Devendra Bishoo, Alzarri Joseph, Shannon Gabriel.

Toss: West Indies.

Umpires: R Illingworth, B Oxenford; TV – R Kettleborough.

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