Pakistan’s late strikes overcome Bravo’s resistance
Having enjoyed the first two days of their 400th Test, piling on the runs on another Dubai featherbed, Pakistan were made to toil for their gains for much of the third day. Those gains came gradually in the first two sessions, before a hostile spell from Wahab Riaz after dinner helped Pakistan make quick inroads into West Indies’ middle order.
Darren Bravo’s resolute 87 and Marlon Samuels’ attacking 76 led the resistance, but Pakistan’s bowlers were able to maintain control and ultimately leave West Indies on 315 for 6 by stumps, trailing by 264 runs.
Starting the day on 14, Bravo was content to proceed at a stately pace, exhibiting patience, determination and a very solid defensive game. He brought up his fifty off 176 balls and showed no inclination to accelerate thereafter. His concern was in occupying the crease as long as possible.
While he occasionally took his eye off the bouncer and edged a full-blooded cut shot past first slip off Yasir Shah, Bravo’s knock was largely chanceless. He provided a fine counterpoint to Samuels and was barely ruffled by the fall of wickets either side of the dinner break.
It was only within half an hour of stumps that Bravo’s long vigil ended, when debutant Mohammad Nawaz had him caught at short-leg to claim his maiden Test wicket.
Samuels, for his part, was not quite as convincing as Bravo, but played the dominant role in the pair’s 113-run third-wicket partnership. Having announced his arrival with consecutive fours off Yasir, he continued to pepper the off-side boundary with excellent cuts and drives.
He hit 13 fours in all, the best of which was probably an exquisitely timed on drive after skipping to the pitch of a ball from left-arm spinner Nawaz.
But Samuels’ habit of staying leg side of the ball and his general lack of foot movement caused him occasional problems and ultimately led to his downfall. He had an early slice of luck when an outside edge off Mohammad Amir’s bowling fell short of Babar Azam at second slip. In the second session, he played a loose drive against Wahab, throwing his hands at the ball, and was lucky the edge did not carry to the wicketkeeper.
Eventually Sohail Khan bowled an indipper that wrapped Samuels on the pads in front of middle; he was rooted in the crease and falling over. It was the first wicket by a fast bowler in the Test match.
After the dinner break, bowling with the second new ball, Wahab cracked the game open for Pakistan with a venomous short-ball barrage. Jermaine Blackwood was given an intense working over, before he gloved an attempted pull to Sarfraz Ahmed behind the stumps.
In Wahab’s next over, Roston Chase fended a well-directed bouncer to Azam, who had just been moved to leg slip. West Indies were 266 for 5 at this stage and suddenly looked vulnerable once again. The late wicket of Bravo, just after West Indies brought up 300, capped off a good day for Pakistan.
That said, they might have anticipated an easier day when Yasir dismissed Brathwaite in just the second over. He got a flighted delivery to drift into middle stump before turning away slightly to beat the outside edge and hit off stump. While it was a good ball, it was made to look even better by the batsman, who lunged forward and played down the wrong line.
Thereafter, Samuels and Bravo frustrated the bowlers with their third-wicket stand for 43.3 overs. Pakistan’s concerns were exacerbated when Nawaz was warned twice for following through in the danger area shortly after tea. They grew even further in the next over when Samuels drilled the ball back at Azhar Ali, who took a blow to his right hand and had to go off for treatment.
But Sohail broke the century stand, Wahab inflicted further damage after dinner, Azhar came back to take up his position at short leg and Nawaz went on to take a crucial late wicket. Pakistan ended up with most boxes ticked. (ESPNCricinfo)
Cover photo caption: Darren Bravo (left) and Marlon Samuels