Departing stalwarts Younis Khan and captain Misbah ul Haq failed to make an impact in their farewell international innings but Pakistan were poised to win a series-clinching victory over the West Indies at stumps on the fourth day at Windsor Park in Dominica on Saturday.
Following the tedium of the first three days which saw a total of 15 wickets falling, 14 tumbled on the penultimate day of the series, ending with the home side at seven for one after being set a daunting victory target of 304.
Mohammad Abbas claimed his first five-wicket haul in Test cricket to trigger a West Indies first innings collapse to 247 all out in the morning after they resumed at 218 for five with the match appearing at the start of the day to be dragging towards a dreary draw.
“Eight seasons of first-class cricket bowling long spells prepared me for this opportunity,” said Abbas.
“I dedicate this performance to both Misbah and Younis because it is my great fortune to play with them but also unfortunate for it to be their last series.”
In attempting to build on that considerable lead of 129 Pakistan crashed to 90 for seven before Yasir Shah, with a Test-best 38 not out, and a determined 27 from Mohammad Amir allowed Misbah the luxury of a second innings declaration at 174 for eight late in the day.
Shah and Amir put on 61 for the eighth wicket and benefited from the continuing West Indian epidemic of errors in the field. Shah was caught behind off a no-ball from leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo and two catches were missed as the tail wagged and the home side wilted.
Fast bowler Alzarri Joseph claimed three wickets but the West Indies’ failure to press home the advantage after getting Younis and Misbah cheaply proved costly.
Shah then turned the screws on his opponents when he removed Kieran Powell to a catch at silly point with what proved to be the final ball of an eventful day.
– Abbas demolition job –
Abbas’ early demolition job gave Pakistan a match-winning platform although their top-order batting failed to build on that considerable advantage.
Shan Masood and Younis Khan added 49 for the third wicket in mid-afternoon before Shannon Gabriel took his second wicket of the innings in prising out Masood.
His demise ushered in Misbah for his last innings but there was to be no fairytale as he attempted to hoist Bishoo out of the ground in the leg-spinner’s first over and succeeded only in getting a spiralling top-edge for wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich to take the catch.
Younis also succumbed to Bishoo just before tea for 35, his errant sweep being well caught by Powell diving at backward square-leg.
Pakistan looked set to squander their hard-earned lead when Sarfraz Ahmed and Asad Shafiq fell cheaply at the start of the final session but Shah and Amir rode their considerable luck in an entertaining partnership.
As well as they played though, the individual honours on the day belonged to Abbas.
Increasingly impressive in his first Test series, the fast-medium bowler took the last four wickets of the West Indies innings for three runs in a four-over spell after an early breakthrough from fellow pacer Amir to finish with the excellent figures of five for 46 off 25 disciplined overs.
Amir removed Dowrich to just the fourth ball of the day which brought in Roston Chase.
Forced to retire hurt on 60 the previous evening due to a blow on his right elbow, he was progressing in partnership with captain Jason Holder until Abbas replaced Amir from the pavilion end.
Chase was bowled off his pads for 69 by a full-length delivery and Bishoo then edged his first ball low to second slip where the ever-reliable Younis came up with his tenth catch of the series. That effort put him into the record books for the most catches ever by a Pakistani fielder in a Test series.