Roach and Seales help West Indies pull off a thrilling one-wicket win over Pakistan

Jayden Seales shows off the ball after his maiden Test five-for
August 15, 2021

West Indies 253 (Brathwaite 97, Holder 58, Afridi 4-59) and 168 for 9 (Blackwood 55, Roach 30*, Afridi 4-50) beat Pakistan 217 (Fawad 56, Holder 3-26, Seales 3-70) and 203 (Azam 55, Seales 5-55, Roach 3-30) by one wicket

Antigua 2000, Dominica 2017 and now Jamaica 2021. West Indies and Pakistan added another chapter to the list of enthralling, nail-biting Tests between these two sides as the hosts eked out a stunning one-wicket win with Nos. 9 and 11 holding on.

As Kemar Roach and Jayden Seales kept batting, the nerves kept building. Finally, it all came down to a fateful Hasan Ali over, as a nick evaded a valiant dive from Mohammad Rizwan to race away for a boundary before Roach pushed two through the off side to guarantee a 1-0 series lead.

Pakistan had their chances, but the story, for now, is thoroughly West Indian. The hosts looked like they had been edged out of this match so often towards the death, and yet refused to acknowledge it was game over. But it did look like that when Roston Chase and Kyle Mayers fell in quick succession, when Jason Holder was cleaned up by Hasan and when Joshua Da Silva - the last recognized batter - fell with 26 still to go. However, West Indies kept knocking down the runs, and the scoreboard pressure shifted entirely to Pakistan. The visitors might have been firm favourites after the hosts had been reduced to nine down, but as Pakistan lost their nerve, Roach and the teenager Seales held theirs.

For Pakistan, there was historical precedence in perhaps their most famous Test of all. In 1954, a Fazal Mahmood inspired side defended 167 - exactly what they had on the board today - against England at the Oval: the origin story of Pakistan cricket. It might even have been comfortable when Shaheen Afridi blew apart the top order, and when a middle-order West Indian collapse saw Pakistan burrow deep into their tail. But the catching, so sensational up until the final session, let them down in crucial moments.

Roach was put down by Rizwan as a partnership with Da Silva flowered, before Hasan dropped him as well in the deep with 19 runs still to get. In the final session, Da Silva was once again dropped by Abbas. Rizwan's 45-yard sprint to seal Jomel Warrican's fate looked also to have done it for West Indies, but there was perhaps an opportunity to pluck a diving one-handed catch off the Roach edge that ended up going to the boundary in that final over.

It may seem ages ago now, but a dramatic morning session saw more drama than many entire days, spanning eight wickets across two innings. Seales led the charge in the mission to remove the lower order cheaply, and within an hour-and-a-half, Pakistan's last five had fallen for 35. Of those 35 runs, 28 were added by an enterprising Hasan in just 26 balls with two fours and two sixes. That pushed the lead above 150 for Pakistan, each extra run giving himself and his fellow bowlers precious breathing room.

Moreover, Babar Azam's presence at the crease was always going to be vital, but a Mayers delivery seared up off a crack and looped up to Holder at second slip early in the day. Azam had departed for a valiant 55, and while it brought Pakistan agonizingly close, his side ended up needing just a bit more from him.

From there on, it was down to the raw pace of Seales against Pakistan's lower order. Yasir Shah and Afridi were sent back with little bother, but Hasan rode his luck as Pakistan brought up 200. Seales, though, would not be denied a maiden five-for in just his second Test, and got there when Hasan's hook went straight to Roach at fine leg. In the process, he became the youngest West Indies bowler to earn a Test five-for as the hosts were set 168 to win.

The Afridi show began in a somewhat surreal over that had three reviews for leg before wicket by Pakistan against Kieran Powell, the third finally resulting in success. Kraigg Brathwaite didn't last long in the face of a hostile spell from Afridi, his poke at one that jagged away leading to his downfall, but only after a review. Nkrumah Bonner dragged on in Afridi's following over, and suddenly, the pre-lunch session turned into a damage-limitation exercise for West Indies.

After the mad rush of the first session came the relative slow burn of the second. No less absorbing for its slightly slower pace, it carried with it the sensation of a building crescendo. West Indies made the early running as Chase and Jermaine Blackwood, West Indies' top scorer with 55, threatened to take it away for the hosts with a 68-run fourth wicket partnership.

They came out after lunch a much more confident pair, Blackwood continuing to put anything too wide or too full away. Hasan in particular came in for punishment off successive overs as he struggled with his lines; and with a small target to defend, there wasn't much room for error, every boundary tilting the scales the batters' way.

Chase, Pakistan's pet peeve in 2017, was looking just as untroubled without quite having as much of an impact on the scoreboard. But all West Indies needed was a partnership, and as long as the pair continued remained at the crease, the danger signs flashed for Pakistan.

Faheem Ashraf, Pakistan's impact allrounder of late, was the man to break the partnership, constantly threatening Chase's outside edge in a probing over. When the edge came, Imran Butt was never going to drop a low catch; and in Ashraf's next over, the same combination got rid of Kyle Mayers for a pair.

But the moment of the session came in late, when a few Holder boundaries had brought the required runs down under 60. Blackwood hung his bat out at Hasan once too often, sending it straight to first slip; except Butt at second decided only he could be trusted behind the stumps, diving sensationally to his left to hold on to a stunner. On the stroke of tea, Holder found his off peg knocked back with a beauty.

It looked like a bridge too far when Da Silva and Roach came out after tea still needing 54, but as in Antigua and Dominica, the West Indies lower order refused to give in. They began to knock off the runs gradually, and suddenly, with the pair looking relatively untroubled, West Indies had less than 30 left to go. Pakistan, to their alarm, found they were still in a game, and with West Indies refusing to roll over, it became a game of shredded nerves as much as exquisite skill.

There was the glory of Rizwan's catch that spanned the length of the ground, the errors like Hasan's drop at deep square leg, the guts of Roach going for his shots with the ultimate consequence on the line and the heart of Seales seeing off some searing pace bowling from Afridi. Pakistan broke West Indian hearts four years ago, but in a classic that contained shades of Antigua, West Indies have exacted exceptionally sweet revenge in Jamaica.

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