“There is always a first time”, wrote the West Indian commentator Fazeer Mohammad in a recent article. He was of course referring to the very realistic possibility of a first ever Pakistan Test series victory in the Caribbean and he was right. But for that milestone to be achieved, the victory in the first Test at Kingston was a necessity.
And speaking of milestones, this Test had enough of those to fill many news columns and broadcast minutes. To start with, Sabina Park which has seen many a famous West Indies triumph in the past was the scene of a landmark 50th Test match played against the visiting Pakistan side. The importance of the occasion should surely have driven the home side to put in their peak performances but as the empty seats in the iconic venue, as well as some of the cricket played, showed the interest and enthusiasm for the game is not what it used to be in the Caribbean.
And it wasn’t as if the Pakistan side that they were facing was a fine example of confidence going into this Test match. With six successive Test defeats starting from the Sharjah one against West Indies as the backdrop to this series, it would have been fair to assume that Pakistan were not at the top of their game and confidence was low. Granted that they had briefly held the number one position in Tests in the past, but too much water had flown under the bridge since that accomplishment.
West Indies batted first after being put in to bat by Pakistan on a pitch which seemed to have something in it for the bowlers. If there was one bowler who wanted some assistance and luck, it was Mohammad Amir. His last bowling performance of any note in Tests had come in August 2010 in a match known more for the pain it caused Pakistan and the world of cricket than the five-wicket haul he managed to take against England. Amir’s return to Test cricket was yet to see a performance of note and in terms of milestones, the fast-bowler’s figures of 6/44 in the West Indies first innings could well mark the moment when he finally returns to the fore as one of the world’s finest Test bowlers. Talking of memories, Mohammad Abbas’ debut Test was a memorable one as well as he joined a select few who had taken their first Test wicket in the first over of their career.
With West Indies bundled out for 286, the limelight fell squarely on the main act of this Test match. This was the matter of 23 runs that Younis Khan had to score to reach the milestone of 10,000 runs which would make him the first Pakistan batsman to do so. But even he understood that bigger than his achievement, it was his team that needed to put in a score that would set-up a victory that they so badly needed.
At 54/2, a pensive looking Younis Khan walked out to the middle. If there was any sign of nerves, it was well hidden behind his determined face as he went about building his innings from scratch, like he had done for the past 115 Tests. But then the moment arrived and another glorious chapter was written in Pakistan’s cricket history. Younis was eventually out for 58 to make way for another landmark performance by his fellow veteran. Misbah-ul-Haq then took over the show in a manner only he can and has done for the last seven years he has been at the helm of the Pakistan Test squad.
With rain affecting Days 2 and 3, the quest for victory for Pakistan seemed to be a tough one. West Indies' first innings total was not impressive but it would need some resilient Pakistan batting to build a lead that could put the hosts under-pressure. The wicket wasn’t conducive to stroke-making and for Pakistan the key was to set-up a total that the likes of Yasir Shah could use to their advantage on a wearing pitch.
The Pakistan captain then went to work to grind down the opposition bowlers and with excellent help from an aggressive Sarfraz Ahmed as well as the lower order, took Pakistan to 407. For his hard work at the crease, the Pakistan captain became the first Asian to score 99 not out in a Test as he was left stranded when Mohammad Abbas was the last man out, late on the fourth day.
A lead of 121 on a track which was showing great promise for the spinners was exactly what the doctor ordered for Pakistan. This was the kind of scenario that the visitors had perfected for many years in the UAE and Yasir Shah went to work reducing an under-pressure home team to 93/4 by end of the day.
For West Indies to come out unscathed from the fifth day would have been close to a miracle but there was hope in some of the recent inconsistencies in the Pakistan bowling performances.
However, for the Misbah-ul-Haq-led side, the bowlers who had faced some flak in recent times came to the fore. Mohammad Amir opened the floodgates with Wahab Riaz and the impressive Mohammad Abbas followed suit to put an end to any West Indian hopes of victory.
The day, however, belonged to the Man-of-the-Match Yasir Shah who ended up with a splendid haul of 6/63 with the West Indies being bowled out for 152 in the second innings, leaving Pakistan a target of 32 to win.
Whilst Yasir could bask in the glory of this award, the match really belonged to two super stars. The Pakistan captain with his 25th Test victory, the achievement of crossing the 5,000 Test run barrier and the record-breaking Younis Khan who eased himself past the 10,000 run mark. The combined brilliance of the two stalwarts and their team has now put Pakistan well on their way to the ultimate prize; a first ever Test series victory in the Caribbean.
Updated Date: Apr 26, 2017 10:30 AM