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Brathwaite, Holder put West Indies in charge

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For the first time on a long, fruitless tour of the UAE, West Indies found themselves ahead in a game, after a stellar century and a spirited bowling effort on the third day in Sharjah. Kraigg Brathwaite’s unbeaten 142 off 318 balls – he carried his bat – steered West Indies to a hard-earned lead of 56 in the first innings, before Jason Holder made three breakthroughs in a lively spell after tea.

 

Pakistan lost four wickets before erasing the deficit, but Azhar Ali and Sarfraz Ahmed stabilised the innings with an unbroken 39-run partnership for the fifth wicket and took Pakistan to 87 for 4 by stumps.

 

The inroads into Pakistan came via a short-ball barrage. Holder bowled a fast bouncer to Sami Aslam that the batsman could only top edge to fine leg. Another well-directed bouncer got big on Asad Shafiq and had him fending to Darren Bravo at gully.

 

Then Younis Khan got a faint tickle on a leg-side delivery to give Holder his third. When Misbah-ul-Haq pulled offspinner Roston Chase straight to Devendra Bishoo at deep-backward square leg, Pakistan had lost four wickets for 11 runs to slip to 48 for 4.

 

It could have been even better for West Indies. With Pakistan’s score at 71, Shannon Gabriel bowled a nasty, steep bouncer at Sarfraz, batting on 9, who fended it to Bravo at slip. But Gabriel had overstepped – for the 26th time in the series – by a big margin and Sarfraz survived. He moved on to 19 by stumps, while Azhar had 45.

 

But with Pakistan’s lead still only 31, they were a fair distance from safety and heavily dependent on Azhar and Sarfraz to get them there. West Indies, for their part, had worked their way into a good position to push for their first win in 14 Tests.

 

The foundation had been laid by Brathwaite, who became the fifth West Indies batsman to carry his bat. He was a paragon of patience and concentration for the majority of his marathon knock and his temperament was matched by an ability to work ones and twos to all corners of the ground.

Kraigg Brathwaite's hundred was the fifth of his Test career
Kraigg Brathwaite’s hundred was the fifth of his Test career

Though all but one of his 11 fours came behind the wicket, owing to the slow outfield, he scored evenly all around the field thanks to his ability to manoeuvre the ball into gaps.

 

Resuming on 95 on the third morning, Brathwaite made that 99 with the first ball of the day, helping a slightly wide delivery from Mohammad Amir between gully and point. Brathwaite worked the fifth ball for a two through midwicket to bring up his fifth Test century.

 

His overnight batting partner was Holder, who started promisingly, looking solid in defence and playing a couple of sumptuous drives for four. The first, off left-armer Wahab Riaz, was a straight drive to a delivery angled into him from around the wicket. He kept his balance perfectly and timed the ball sweetly, beating mid-on to his left. The second, off Amir, was a gorgeous drive through the extra-cover region to a ball that was angled across him.

 

But Holder’s dismissal came immediately after that second boundary. Amir, also a left-armer, changed the angle by going around the wicket to attack the stumps. Holder misjudged the line, shouldered arms and had his off stump rattled.

 

Left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz, introduced in the 96th over for just his fifth over of the match, created the next two chances – in the space of four balls. First, he got Brathwaite to attempt a cut at one that was too straight.

 

The ball bounced more than Brathwaite had expected and he got a thin edge to wicketkeeper Sarfraz, who fumbled it onto the grille of his helmet before it fell to ground. Then, off the last ball of the over, Bishoo swept onto his pad to Azhar at short leg, but he, too, fumbled it onto the grille of his helmet before taking the catch. While Michael Gough gave it out on the field, Bishoo reviewed and third umpire Richard Illingworth spotted the infraction.

 

By that time, West Indies had taken the lead, and Brathwaite and Bishoo continued to build an eighth-wicket partnership that steadily extended it. Bishoo was more than adequate in the pair’s 60-run stand, mirroring some of the grit that Brathwaite had shown in spades. But he was the first to depart after lunch, nicking behind off Wahab.

 

Wahab then accounted for Alzarri Joseph and Gabriel to wrap up the West Indies innings and claim his second five-wicket haul in Tests. That still left West Indies with a handy first-innings lead, and it looked handier still after Holder’s post-tea exploits. (ESPNCricinfo)

 

Photo caption: Jason Holder rocked Pakistan’s top-order with three wickets in the second innings

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