Brathwaite, Holder help West Indies edge towards win

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West Indies 337 and 114 for 5 (Brathwaite 44*, Dowrich 36*, Yasir 3-30) need 39 runs to beat Pakistan 281 and 208 (Azhar 91, Sarfraz 42, Holder 5-30)

By Sirish Raghavan

(CRICINFO) After subsiding for 208 to set West Indies a target of 153, Pakistan took five wickets to leave the Sharjah Test tantalisingly poised at stumps on day four. But, just 39 runs away from claiming their first win of the UAE tour, West Indies held the edge thanks to Kraigg Brathwaite’s immovable presence at the crease.

Brathwaite, who had carried his bat through the first innings for 142, was at the crease on 44, having seen his side through a startling wobble that had left them 67 for 5. He looked calm and solid throughout his knock, assured in defence and adept at rotating the strike. Shane Dowrich, who kept him company in an unbroken 47-run sixth-wicket stand that saw out the day, was less convincing early in his innings, playing Wahab Riaz with feet rooted to the crease and stumps exposed. Nonetheless, he settled in to hit some telling boundaries towards the end of the day and tilt the balance back in West Indies’ favour.

Jason Holder claimed career-best figures of 5 for 30 © Getty Images
Jason Holder claimed career-best figures of 5 for 30 © Getty Images

That West Indies found themselves with the upper hand was thanks in no small part to some loose cricket from Pakistan. In a tragicomic collapse after lunch, Pakistan lost five wickets for 33 runs, including 3 for 4 in the space of 18 balls, to be bowled out for 208.

The slide began in the seventh over after lunch, when legspinner Devendra Bishoo had Mohammad Nawaz caught at short leg. He landed the ball on a good length in the rough outside the left-hander’s off stump and extracted just enough turn to pick up an inside edge to Leon Johnson, who stuck out his left hand to take a sharp catch.

Bishoo’s next wicket came four overs later, when Azhar Ali, batting on 91, gifted his wicket away. Seeing a liberally flighted delivery, Azhar started shaping for a sweep, before realising the ball was too far outside off stump for the shot. Instead of leaving the ball alone, Azhar then offered a limp drive and only succeeded in guiding it to Darren Bravo at first slip.

Thirteen balls later, Mohammad Amir perished to one of the most entertaining run-outs conceivable to leave Pakistan in even greater trouble. Wickets were now falling at increasingly short intervals; the next one came after four balls when Wahab Riaz turned a Holder delivery to Johnson, who took a remarkable reflex catch at short leg, off the face of the bat.

Zulfiqar Babar then chipped in with a six and a four in a seven-ball 15 that took Pakistan past 200 and their lead past 150. But Holder trapped Yasir Shah in front for a duck to conclude a breathless passage of play and collect figures of 5 for 30. It was Holder’s first five-wicket haul in Tests and put his team within sight of their first Test win under his captaincy.

Having left the door wide open for West Indies, Pakistan then proceeded to give them encouraging nudges towards the threshold. Off the fifth delivery of the chase, Amir found Johnson’s edge only for Misbah-ul-Haq to put down a regulation chance at third slip. Amir’s frustration was compounded in his next over, when Sami Aslam, at first slip, made a total hash of another chance off the same batsman.

But shortly after tea, West Indies lost 5 for 38 in a period of play that brought Pakistan roaring back. Yasir got the first three of those wickets. Johnson, looking to pull a shortish delivery, was hit in front when the ball did not rise as much as he expected. Bravo was set up beautifully by four legbreaks before Yasir slipped one in that did not turn as much and took the outside edge. Marlon Samuels went for an irresponsible loft with long-off in place and holed out to Babar.

Then Wahab bowled Jermaine Blackwood when the batsman brought down an angled bat to a ball that honed into the stumps from around the wicket. When Roston Chase flicked Wahab in the air to midwicket, West Indies were tottering.

Perhaps fittingly, West Indies’ recovery was engineered by a man who had hardly been off the field throughout the match. With Dowrich for company, and Holder and Bishoo still to come, Brathwaite can expect decent support as he attempts to steer his team to their first win in 14 Tests.

Sirish Raghavan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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