A win at last for West Indies in 1st Test
Quite suitably, it took an up and down day to end an up and down Test, a cracker between two faltering sides. At the end West Indies had wrapped up their first and most significant Test win in over two years, since they beat England at the start of 2009.
Quite suitably, it took an up and down day to end an up and down Test, a cracker between two faltering sides. At the end West Indies had wrapped up their first and most significant Test win in over two years, since they beat England at the start of 2009. Ravi Rampaul and captain Darren Sammy were at the centre of it, taking eight wickets between them to lead the side to a 40-run win in Providence. Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal battled but Pakistan had been outplayed, their batting as brittle as ash.
Though Sammy took five wickets, Rampaul was actually the key, the best fast bowler in this Test by some distance. Devendra Bishoo's arrival has taken the limelight away from Rampaul, for whom, in a normal non-dysfunctional cricket set-up, this would be hailed as a breakthrough performance. He's bustled in all game, with pace, intelligence and movement.
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He was terrific yesterday and began similarly today, generating incoming swerve and then more off the surface. Asad Shafiq's charmed but vital hand was defeated early by one such delivery, coming in and going through. He gave little away in that first six-over spell. Then, after lunch as the ball softened and got old, he raced in for a spell of subtle reverse swing, dismissing the stubborn Abdur Rehman in his second over back.
In between, Sammy took over, playing a real captain's hand. Bishoo and Kemar Roach had looked particularly flat in the morning, so Sammy brought himself in and at his gentle pace, immediately started getting some inswing. The key intervention came in his third over - two wickets in three balls turned around what was becoming Pakistan's morning. He found enough late in-drift to first trap Misbah and then Mohammad Salman lbw; the latter's leg-before took the total number of such dismissals in this Test to a world-record 18.
After tea he picked up three more in a similarly simple manner: pitch on a length on off and bring it in. Umar Gul was first and then came the killer blow, Akmal. The pair were trapped in successive overs before Saeed Ajmal was bowled to cap the win.
With Misbah and Umar putting on a breezy 52 in the morning, the game had been shifting into Pakistan's control. But the fragility of their batting is swiftly becoming legendary, especially in chasing small-ish targets. Misbah continued his extraordinary revival as captain-batsman with a seventh fifty in eight Test innings, employing a familiar method designed to frustrate and exhilarate equally. Most deliveries he blocked, as you might with the Most Exaggerated Forward Defense in world cricket.
But he does possess a keener mind than most Pakistani batsmen and his mini-assault in the morning on Bishoo was well-conceived. Having been tied down against him through the Test, he suddenly lofted him straight for a big six. In the next over, he lofted him through midwicket for a boundary and the field spread, Bishoo a little rattled.
With him, Akmal provided such easy impetus that the surface was forgotten about. He'd already cut a faltering Bishoo, before producing a sumptuous drive on the up off Rampaul. Soon he began to look so good, cutting square, picking through the leg side as well as driving to bring the target under 100, that a rash dismissal felt inevitable, as it so often does with him.
At lunch, he was still around though, poised between his most significant Test innings and yet another pretty but futile hand, and the game was just about still on. Post lunch, he went soon enough, another of the latter in his bag, and one of Pakistan's more shocking recent Test defeats was sealed.