Two of the most colourful and dramatic teams in world cricket logged horns at Kingston, Jamaica for the Test and it turned out to be a remarkable one. Each chapter of the book consisted of twists and turn and as the book was nearing an end, the final chapter kept the readers on the edge. Jamaica would have made many of the fans nostalgic who grew up watching that a Test match between West Indies and Pakistan would always be a nail-biting thriller. Magnetism has not waned till now.

The pitch at Jamaica was all about testing the nerves of the batsmen rather than a compromising one, where the visitors would score hundreds and the home team would grind. It had everything that the pacers would relish – movement off the pitch and in the air, divination of the seam, and subtle bounce. Of course, the track would remain the same throughout the four days.

Neither the Pakistani batting lineup nor the West Indian batting lineup possessed the technique required to counter such a track – what they really possessed was the courage and passion which added yet another thrilling West Indies-Pakistan Test match in the cricketing folklore.

On Day 1, the first two sessions set up the day for a grand finale, and much of the moving happened in those final two and a half hours.

Fawad Alam and Faheem Ashraf were still getting their feet under the table in a budding little partnership of 23 as they walked out after tea, but a counterattacking knock from the allrounder saw Pakistan hurtle past 150.

On a day when the run-rate barely tiptoed past 2.25, 52 runs came off the first ten overs in that last session.

Ashraf might be at pains to insist he is a bowling allrounder, but he averages over 50 with the bat since his return to the side in December last year.

It appeared Ashraf had helped bail Pakistan out of a tight spot once more, but as the 100-run stand approached, the visitors offered West Indies a gift all wrapped up with a bow on it.

Alam and Ashraf set off for an unnecessary single, chancing the arm of Roston Chase, whose shy caught Ashraf short of his crease. The wicket gave West Indies a second wind, and despite a brief cameo from Hasan Ali, the fast bowlers found the quality that had subdued Pakistan for much of the first two sessions and blew through Alam and the tail.

Kemar Roach and Seales prowled in the morning and set jitters in the Pakistani batting lineup until Fawad Alam arrested a humiliation with his steely resolve.  Both the pacers found prodigious movement with the new ball, which they were careful not to waste. They were supported by Jason Holder, who chipped in with important wickets and stopped the further progress of Pakistan.

The West Indian reply was shaky.

Mohammad Abbas started to make the ball talk and prised out two quick wickets at stumps on Day 1 while on Day 2, Shaheen Shah Afridi left West Indies at bay, but Holder survived a review, and then, he stitched an effective partnership with Kraigg Braithwaite for the sixth wicket.

Brathwaite dominated the day, surviving almost through to the end after having to settle nerves after the frenetic finish of last night. He saw off each of Pakistan’s pace bowlers, the first new ball, a dangerous middle-order collapse, the introduction of Yasir, and two full sessions.

But then it all changed as West Indies’ most threatening partnership – 95 between the captain and his predecessor was broken.

Jason Holder was playing with delightful fluidity as his side pushed past 150 and bore down on Pakistan’s first innings score ominously. Yasir, not nearly at his best, was dispatched to the boundary repeatedly, and soon enough, a backfoot punch off Hasan Ali got Holder to his 11th half-century. Eight runs later, though, he was gone, a victim of Faheem Ashraf’s subtle seam movement.

Brathwaite, of course, remained and was even eyeing up a personal three-figure score – ideally before having to face the new ball in darkening conditions. It is hard to say if that played a role in his decision to hare back for a couple down to the fine leg, taking on Hasan, whose direct hit caught the opener well short of his ground.

With Brathwaite not at the wicket, Pakistan expected to take the important lead in such a low-scoring affair.

But wayward lines with the new ball, particularly from Shaheen Afridi, saw the lower order continue to eke out runs as Joshua Da Silva manipulated the strike intelligently. By the time the umpires began worrying about the light, West Indies already had a decent lead and on Day 3, the lead did not stretch enough, but the West Indian bowlers had Pakistan in the mud.

The West Indian pacers got rid of the struggling Imran Butt for a duck as he pushed his pad out at one that was crashing into the middle stump. Thereafter, though, Abid Ali and Azhar Ali settled down, seeing off the pace bowlers without much trouble.

Azhar was more circumspect – and less convincing – through the early part of his innings. West Indies tested his footwork and his judgment, operating steadily on a fifth-stump line and beating the outside edge on a number of occasions. When Kemar Roach finally induced the edge, Jason Holder put him down at second slip.

Roach, however, had the last laugh in the last over before lunch, bringing one back in sharply to breach Azhar’s defence and crash into his leg stump. Then, Seales welcoming in the post-lunch session with a sumptuous double-strike – Abid was presented another short one with the first ball. The extra bounce extracted from the surface saw the opener slash straight to second slip, and Holder made no mistake this time.

Three balls later, Fawad Alam fell to an outside edge after lackluster footwork.

Pakistan were now in the perilous position of having lost four wickets with the lead at just 29, and it was left to Mohammad Rizwan and Azam, arguably Pakistan’s two best performers over the past year, to take the sting out of the hosts’ momentum.

Over the next hour or so, they did just that under blackening skies, the runs trickling along gradually. With an increasing amount of sideways movement for the pacers, it was anything but easy, and the 56 runs they managed before the heavens opened may yet be the difference between success and failure.

Two-and-a-half-hours later, though, and under clear blue skies, Holder drew Rizwan into a forward defensive push with seam movement producing the edge.

Faheem Ashraf scored just 12 runs in 79 deliveries; he happily played second fiddle to Azam, who brought up a high-quality half-century before the day was done.

Day 4 was full of drama!

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.

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.

On any other compromising flat decks, this total would have been a cakewalk – on this track against the likes of Abbas, Ali, Afridi, and Ashraf this would not be such.

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 relatively 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.

Ashraf was the man to break the partnership, constantly threatening Chase’s outside edge in a probing over. When the edge came, 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.

Holder decided to flex his muscle and struck boundaries that 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.

The West Indian lower order was exposed, but they were not going to give up easily.

Joshua Da Silva and Roach began to knock off the runs gradually, and suddenly, with the pair looking relatively untroubled, West Indies had less than 30 left to go.

Afridi struck to give Pakistan the lifeline and crank up the tension.

Da Silva went fullish outside off and jabbed at that away from his body to get an outside edge. His front leg was in the middle while he pushed at that ball on off, as Rizwan pouched it low on his right.

Warrican was the next man to go as Rizwan ran all the way to almost the fine leg fence, before diving forward to pouch the ball into his gloves. Warrican went to pull a short delivery from Ali wide of off, but got a top edge as the ball sailed away. Four fielders gave the chase, but in the end, it belonged to Rizwan – Pakistan were one wicket away and West Indies required 15 runs.

As Kemar Roach and 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 one through the off side to guarantee a 1-0 series lead.


A stunning Test match – certainly, test cricket is beautiful.

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