Hope’s fifty stretches West Indies lead past 100

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Tea: West Indies 312 and 197 for 4 (Hope 68*, Vishaul 18*, Yasir 2-69) lead Pakistan 393 (Azhar 105, Misbah 99, Gabriel 4-81, Holder 3-42, Bishoo 3-16) by 116 runs

Another session, another stalemate. The fourth day of the Test began to look like a game of chess as both sides became increasingly circumspect before making any move in a session where the game moved along without the outcome being any clearer. In a cagey, nervous passage of play where both sides were fully cognizant of how precariously the game was poised, West Indies moved to 197 for 4 – leading by 116, with Shai Hope’s half-century propelling West Indies forward.

Pakistan’s bowlers grew increasingly impatient as the second session wore on (AFP photo)

Yasir started the second session by bowling around the wicket again to exploit the rough. But even as Yasir extracted prodigious turn off the surface, Misbah was extremely reticent to trust Shadab with a spell, a likely result of his disappointing economy rate earlier on. Indeed, off Shadab’s first over of the second session, he gifted Hope a long hop that the batsman dispatched for the innings first six.

Mohammad Abbas and Mohammad Amir kept chipping away laboriously from the other end, and even though there was some swing on offer, the batsmen kept sticking it out in what began to look like a war of attrition. But it was Yasir’s persistence from around the wicket that finally paid off for Pakistan when he drew Chase into driving him on the up. Chase hadn’t been able to get to the pitch of the ball, and the drive came straight back to Yasir for an easy catch, giving Pakistan a breakthrough they needed badly.

At the other end, Hope – against whom calls to be dropped had grown louder all series – showed why the selectors had showed faith in him, reaching his half-century. He picked up the pace after reaching the landmark, playing a delectable straight drive off Abbas after getting to the landmark, and demonstrating excellent footwork to work Yasir through the covers as West Indies’ lead crossed 100. Vishaul Singh, on the other end, supported him ably in a partnership that was ticking along at over four runs per over.

Momentum in the first session had fluctuated, a half-century partnership between Kraigg Brathwaite and Hope steering West Indies into the lead. West Indies got off to a terrible start, having added only one run to their overnight score when Shimron Hetmyer, who had looked convincing on the third evening, was dismissed by Mohammad Amir. The manner of the wicket was identical to his dismissal in Jamaica, the ball seaming back in sharply to crash into the stumps.

Hope and Brathwaite batted more positively after coming together. Hope hit Amir for two elegant boundaries through the off side soon after coming to the crease. The 56-partnership was reached at a healthy run rate of 3.20, and what was most impressive was the technique and confidence the pair showed on a tough pitch against world-class bowling.

But just as it looked like West Indies might creep into the ascendancy once more, Brathwaite was undone by a combination of vicious spin from Yasir Shah and staggering reflexes from Younis Khan. Yasir pitched one well outside leg stump from around the wicket, which spun sharply across and clipped the shoulder of his bat. Younis dived to his right with agility and reflexes that belied his age, holding on to a splendid one-handed catch that may end up being as crucial as any runs he scores this game.

With Hope looking set for a career-defining innings, however, those runs will be pretty valuable, too. (ESPNCricinfo)

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. 

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