SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates, CMC – A clatter of late wickets in the final hour hurt Pakistan’s momentum and handed West Indies a rare advantage, on a topsy-turvy opening day of the third and final Test here yesterday.
The hosts, entering the contest at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium with the series already wrapped up, were in command at 230 for four in the final session before suddenly losing four wickets for 25 runs, to stumble to the close on 255 for eight.
Pakistan’s slide was triggered by leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo who picked up three of the four wickets to end with four for 74.
In-form speedster Shannon Gabriel claimed the other wicket to finish with three for 58, as West Indies enjoyed one of their brightest days in an otherwise wretched series where they are yet to win a single game.
Right-armer Gabriel had earlier stunned Pakistan, snatching two wickets in the opening over, to reduce them to one run for two wickets after they opted to bat first.
However, 20-year-old opener Sami Aslam spearheaded his side’s revival, top-scoring with 74 while captain Misbah-ul-Haq carved out 53 and Sarfraz Ahmed and veteran Younis Khan both hit 51.
Needing a strong performance to turn the page on the disappointment of the two previous Tests, West Indies were given the ideal start courtesy of an incisive Gabriel burst.
With just the second ball of the morning and with a single run on the board, the 28-year-old removed first Test triple century-maker, Azhar Ali for a first-ball ‘duck’, caught at second slip by Kraigg Brathwaite as he sparred at one that bounced and moved away.
Two balls later, Gabriel sent back Asad Shafiq also without scoring, after bringing one back to hit the right-hander in front. His initial appeal for lbw was rejected but the Windies were vindicated on review.
Tottering for the first time in the series in their first innings, Pakistan were rescued by the left-handed Aslam who anchored a crucial 106-run, third wicket partnership with the irrepressible Younis.
Aslam faced 172 balls and counted seven fours and a six while Younis, who gathered a hundred in the last Test in Abu Dhabi, struck four fours and a six in a 100-ball knock.
The pair carried Pakistan safely to lunch at 81 for two and kept West Indies wicket-less for another 40 minutes afterward, before being separated.
Younis, twice let off on 30 in the same over from off-spinner Roston Chase prior to lunch, reached his half-century just over half-hour following the resumption, when he clobbered Chase over the ropes at mid-wicket.
Attempting to repeat the stroke in the bowler’s next over, the right-handed Younis succeeded only in top-edging a catch to Leon Johnson at mid-wicket.
However, West Indies remained without further success in the session as Misbah anchored the first of two partnerships to put Pakistan on top.
He put on 43 for the fourth wicket with Aslam, a stand which left the hosts on 148 for three at tea. And when Aslam perished in the first over after the break with just two runs added, gloving a reverse sweep at Bishoo to captain Jason Holder at slip, Misbah combined with Sarfraz to again frustrate the Windies.
The pair posted 80 for the fifth wicket with both playing positively and allowing Pakistan to march dominantly through the next hour.
Misbah, unbeaten on 18 at tea, took on Bishoo in the fifth over after the interval, thumping him for a back-to-back leg-side four and six, to move into the 30s.
He then swept Chase for four before reverse-sweeping Bishoo for a couple, to raise his second half-century in as many innings, on the stroke of the drinks break.
Off the first ball on the resumption, he was adjudged to have touched a reverse sweep through to the wicketkeeper off Bishoo, after facing 123 deliveries and striking three fours and a six.
His dismissal triggered the slide as Bishoo clinically sliced through the lower order.
Mohammad Nawaz missed his charge and was well stumped by Shane Dowrich for six and three overs later, Sarfraz dragged on to Gabriel after counting five fours in a 60-ball knock.
Bishoo then ensured the Windies ended the day on top when he beat Wahab Riaz’s defensive prod to gain an lbw decision in the third over before the close.