Mohammad Abbas rattles West Indies after Jayden Seales, Jason Holder limit Pakistan to 217

Fawad Alem and Faheem Ashraf shared a half-century stand
August 12, 2021

Stumps West Indies 2 for 2 (Brathwaite 1*, Abbas 2-0) trail Pakistan 217 (Fawad 56, Holder 3-26, Seales 3-70) by 215 runs

It is difficult to take issue with a day of Test match cricket when you win the toss, field first and bowl the opposition out within the day for 217, but West Indies will realise they might have easily have had a much firmer grasp on this Test match by now. It was an 85-run partnership between Fawad Alam, who top scored with 56, and Faheem Ashraf - two men who have spent varying periods of time out of this Test side for similarly unsatisfactory reasons - that appeared to have pulled Pakistan back to parity.

But a self-destructive run-out with an hour to play allowed West Indies back in, and their quartet of quicks flicked the switch back, romping through the lower order to skittle Pakistan. They might, however, have done their job a bit too well at the end, because it forced the hosts into batting for an awkward four-over period. During that time, Mohammad Abbas prised out Kieran Powell and Nkrumah Bonner for ducks with characteristically glorious seam bowling, leaving West Indies wobbling at 2 for 2 overnight.

The first two sessions set up the day for a grand finale, and much of the moving happened in those final two and a half hours. Alam and Ashraf were still getting their feet under the table in a budding little partnership of 23 as they walked out after tea, but a counterattacking knock from the allrounder saw Pakistan hurtle past 150. On a day when the run rate barely tiptoed past 2.25, 52 runs came off the first ten overs in that last session.

Ashraf might be at pains to insist he is a bowling allrounder, but he averages over 50 with the bat since his return to the side in December last year. The belligerent pull in front of square and the elegant drive in front of cover were both in full flow, and when West Indies turned to their spinners to give the pacers a break, the runs flowed even more steadily. It appeared Ashraf had helped bail Pakistan out of a tight spot once more, but as the 100-run stand approached, the visitors offered West Indies a gift all wrapped up with a bow on it.

Alam and Ashraf set off for an unnecessary single, chancing the arm of Roston Chase, whose shy caught Ashraf short of his crease. The wicket gave West Indies a second wind, and despite a brief cameo from Hasan Ali, the fast bowlers found the quality that had subdued Pakistan for much of the first two sessions, and blew through Alam and the tail. The last three fell without a run being scored after Jayden Seales had Hasan hole out on the onside, while Jason Holder broke through Alam's defences and had Abbas edge one for a golden duck.

Once Pakistan were put in to bat on a morning when showers were forecast, they began stodgily as a potent new ball pairing of Kemar Roach and Seales prowled. Abid Ali and Imran Butt were viewed as the Achilles heel of the visiting side's batting line-up, and both fell cheaply, leaving the rebuild to Pakistan's two best batters: Azhar Ali and Babar Azam.

Roach and Seales - who now have two wickets each - found prodigious movement with the new ball, which they were careful not to waste. Captain Brathwaite had said yesterday his side had plans against each Pakistan player, and the way they went about dismantling the openers' techniques suggested he had a point. Both were discomfited by deliveries that kept seaming back in of a length, and when the change-up from Roach targeted Butt's stumps on the full, he was never in position to play the expansive drive he attempted. He found his off stump uprooted, and it had been coming.

Abid had come off the back of an unbeaten double hundred against Zimbabwe, but against sterner opposition previously, his record remains remarkably mediocre. He got off to a streaky start with a thick outside edge that evaded the slips bringing him his first runs, but ever since, scoring opportunities were rarer than a dry day this series. Seales set him up with short deliveries through the over before pitching one up, and the Pakistan opener obliged by nicking it through to Joshua da Silva.

Pakistan might have been content to lose just the two openers in the shortened first session, but in an extended second session in hot, humid conditions, West Indies ripped the spine out of the middle order. Their quartet of fast bowlers rose to the occasion, bowling expertly in partnerships - much more so than Pakistan batted in them.

Azhar and Azam were removed within five deliveries of each other. Azhar in particular struggled dismally throughout an uncomfortable sojourn out in the middle, surviving no fewer than four reviews before finally nicking off to Holder. The next delivery Azam faced, he found Roach had beaten him on the inside edge, and when West Indies reviewed for a possible feather through to the keeper, Hawkeye supported their claim. All of a sudden, what had been a "nearly" session for Brathwaite's side was transforming into a dominant one.

It wasn't ill-deserved, either. For the first 45 overs, the hosts stuck with the four pace bowlers, allowing them limited rest in oppressively humid conditions. Not for any extended period, though, was there a discernible let-up in intensity, a dropping of the shoulders or the pernicious creep-in of bad body language. The balls kept landing in the right areas, the pace didn't fall away and Pakistan continued to be asked questions.

Mohammad Rizwan would be the man to answer them, because Rizwan, apparently, does every job Pakistan require nowadays. His first ball was clipped away to midwicket for a boundary, and it soon became evident that that was how the wicketkeeper-batter would play. Seales was pulled away for four the first ball he bowled, and two further boundaries off the same bowler saw the run rate trend upwards.

Rizwan fell shortly after, but it was during the Alam-Ashraf partnership, and the manic final hour which saw seven wickets fall that swung the game this way and that before leaving it finely poised overnight.

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