St. Kitts: Tanvir Ahmed and Pakistan's phalanx of spinners put the tourists in control of the second Test against West Indies on the second day in Basseterre. With Saeed Ajmal, Ahmed first put together a rousing, defiant last-wicket stand of 78 to not only prevent Pakistan's first innings from going to total waste, but actually make it a little imposing.
Ajmal, Abdur Rehman and Mohammad Hafeez then shared six wickets between them as West Indies slumped to 184 for eight on a still decent surface for batting; proof of that was in an elegant fifty from Marlon Samuels. The two sides are among the weakest batting-wise in cricket which is no bad thing for it makes for compelling cricket.
More than anything, Pakistan's spinners were persistent, working their way patiently through the bulk of the batting. Occasionally a partnership lingered or resistance emerged, an obstacle appeared; each time they found a way through.
Ahmed had struck first in a spell which made up in control what it lacked in pace. Off the second ball of the innings, Lendl Simmons was sucked into a needless drive. Taufeeq Umar, once among the best slippers in Pakistan, took the first of three good catches. Another loose drive brought the wicket of debutante Kraigg Brathwaite, though the beneficiary Wahab Riaz was poor. He had nearly given away the initiative when Ramnaresh Sarwan took him for three boundaries in an over, but the arrival of spin halted progress.
Rehman slotted in immediately, stopping runs, but it was Ajmal who caused strife. It wasn't so much the succession of off-breaks, but what each subsequent one hid: the threat of the doosra. Pleasingly, not many came and it was to an off-break that Sarwan fell, another needless rush out of the crease.
Mohammad Hafeez, more bowler than batsman this series, then chipped in. Darren Bravo, initially lost among Brathwaite's debut and Sarwan's blitz, fought neatly with Samuels till he edged Hafeez on the stroke of tea. Soon after the break, Hafeez struck again to remove Brendan Nash.
Hafeez used, it was Rehman's turn. Carlton Baugh wasn't much of an issue, but the key breakthrough was the dismissal of Darren Sammy. Another promising partnership was building when Sammy tried to repeat a straight six from the previous Rehman over. He struck it well, only to see Umar Akmal running along the boundary to take an outstanding catch inches from the rope.
The one obstacle that proved more durable than others was Samuels. Only in the XI because of Shivnarine Chanderpaul's late withdrawal, Samuels at first looked precisely like a man playing his first Test in over three years. But a loose, brief second spell from Riaz in the run-up to tea allowed him to unfurl a couple of sweet square drives and settle down.
After tea he looked better, secure in defence, surer in attack. He didn't always read Ajmal, choosing to play him off the surface but it hardly mattered when he was driving him elegantly over extra cover for four and six. Rehman had already been dispatched over long-on.
In between those strokes, he was patient and measured. But he took on Ajmal once too often. Having already hit him straight, there was little need for another and next ball, Taufeeq took his third, excellent catch of the innings, diving forward at long-off.
That was fitting reward for a day that had been Pakistan's, the first hour apart. In that, they lost three swift wickets and looked set to be rolled over for under 200. Only when Ahmed and Ajmal came together was the innings given unexpected solidity.
Ahmed was his usual self, mixing muscular boundaries with those unique whips, Caribbean style. One such, over midwicket off Devendra Bishoo, brought up the fifty partnership half an hour before lunch. In the next over came two more, a punch through covers and a dainty clip wide of mid-on. And as lunch neared, a streaky edge brought an accomplished maiden fifty. He celebrated immediately, cutting for another boundary.
Ajmal gave obdurate support, mixing fortune with pluck. He regularly and comically pulled, once going fine for four and once top-edging for six over slips. Other than that he stuck around, adding the odd run, frustrating the bowling.
West Indies slumped swiftly, alarmingly. The second new ball was wasted, Kemar Roach either too full or short and Ravi Rampaul lacking the energy of earlier bursts. Sammy toiled, but Bishoo floundered as defensive fields were employed. Bishoo finally ended the stand, ten minutes before lunch trapping Ahmed in front but the tide had turned.