Pakistan look to first-ever Test series win in West Indies
BRIDGETOWN – Misbahul Haq – who, along with Younis Khan, will retire after the ongoing three-Test series in the West Indies – is on the brink of yet another accomplishment. He is now one win away from becoming the first Pakistan captain to win a Test series in the West Indies in eight attempts, and he would want to tick that box in the second game at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, starting from Sunday.
After Pakistan won by seven wickets in Sabina Park, Misbah thanked his teammates for yet another “gift”.
“If you are not enjoying yourself, then there’s no point of playing. I am not the kind of person who would linger on if I was not having fun,” Misbah, who became the sixth batsman to be stranded on 99, said after the first Test in Sabina Park. “These wins are special, and this is one more Test match that the team has given to me as a gift.”
A potential series win in West Indies has a lot of historical significance even if the home side is not at its prime currently. Pakistan first toured West Indies in 1957-58, and its maiden game was memorable due to Hanif Mohammad’s match-saving 337. The 970-minute knock remains the longest in Tests, and second-longest in first-class cricket.
The timeless knock still gets spoken about, like the 1987-88 tour when Imran Khan led Pakistan in a three-Test series against one of the world’s best-ever cricket teams. After winning the first Test and drawing the second one, Pakistan set West Indies a target of 266 in the decider. With West Indies reduced to 207 for 8, Pakistan would have thought it had a chance at history. But an unbroken ninth-wicket stand of 61 runs between Jeff Dujon and Winston Benjamin took West Indies to a series-levelling win.
Admittedly, West Indies is not the same force now, but that counts for little in history’s statistical prism. If West Indies has to put up a show then this is the time. It is not unfamiliar territory. Written off after losing the second Test against England in 2015, it came back to win the final game and level the series.
It also showed its fighting nature through Roston Chase’s effort during the series against India last year. The issue, though, is with its inconsistency. After Yasir Shah’s six-wicket haul in the second innings handed the side a loss in the first Test, Jason Holder asked for his batsmen to take more ownership.
“We didn’t get enough runs in the first innings. Never really got a partnership going. Credit must go to Shane Dowrich and Roston Chase, but unfortunately we couldn’t get in excess of 300 runs, which we needed to do,” Holder had said. “Yasir Shah did bowl well in the second innings but we could have batted a lot better. From the position we were in last evening, it was always going to be difficult to come out on the fifth day and try to survive Yasir.”
The other talking point, from Pakistan’s perspective, going into the second Test is whether or not to give Shadab Khan a debut. Shadab was the find for Pakistan during the Twenty20 International series, and his presence in the line-up could reduce the workload of the seamers.
Misbah, though, had said that a call on team composition will be taken based on conditions. “Our combination will depend on the conditions we get, and especially how the pitch looks before the Test match,” he had said. “This pitch (for the first Test) had a lot of moisture and that is why we opted to bowl first and go with three seamers. With our combination, it’s difficult, it’s difficult to sneak in the fifth bowler, especially since we have six specialist batsmen, so having three fast bowlers and two spinners becomes tricky.”
Wrapping up the series with a game to go would be the ideal way for Pakistan to give Misbah and Younis a chance to enjoy their farewell game.
Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Ahmed Shahzad, Azhar Ali, Shan Masood, Babar Azam, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmad (wk), Usman Salahuddin, Yasir Shah, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Asghar, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Abbas.
West Indies: Jason Holder (capt), Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood, Kraigg Brathwaite, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich (wk), Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kieran Powell, Vishaul Singh. –ICC