Classy Chase leads West Indies rally
A day that started with ominous familiarity for the West Indies ended in unexpected success as the hosts recovered from a middle order meltdown to post 286 for 6 at stumps. Roston Chase was primarily responsible for the turnaround, an unbeaten 131 – just his second century – dominating the day, while Jason Holder’s unbeaten fifty helped run Pakistan ragged in a final session off which they scored 120.
Chase’s awareness around the crease was excellent, knowing exactly when to leave the ball. He was equally effective at adjusting his feet when facing the spinners, and was in position to take advantage when they dropped the ball either short or bowled full. The stroke that brought up his century was a fitting snapshot of how he had played: a delightful cover drive off an overpitched delivery from leg-spinner Shadab Khan, who had a particularly harsh introduction to the longest format. In the absence of Yasir Shah for most parts of the final session, he was summoned but failed to ring in any sort of consistency.
The evening session began, somewhat familiarly, with Holder joining Chase to play his part in yet another rearguard. With the West Indies top and middle order disappointing so regularly, Holder’s runs in the lower order have become essential to his side, rather than just an added bonus. To his credit, he delivers more often than not, and he gave Chase stellar support.
With Yasir clearly hampered by a back niggle and unable to bowl at full tilt, Pakistan were at times reduced to being a three-man attack. Chase and Holder were wise to the situation, ensuring they didn’t give a wicket away easily and waited for the bowlers to tire. As they did, their intensity invariably dropped and for the first time all day, Pakistan looked like they were waiting for a wicket to fall instead of actively hunting for one.
West Indies had perhaps expected an easier ride after winning the toss and choosing to bat in favourable conditions, but a splendid new ball spell from both Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Abbas put them on the back foot straightaway. The wicket of Kraigg Brathwaite, when it came, had a sense of inevitability to it, the right-hander edging an Amir delivery that held its line. When Shimron Hetmyer fell flashing at a ball outside off stump soon after, the lack of experience was telling.
With the pitch seen as conducive to spin bowling, Misbah-ul-Haq turned to Yasir as early as the eleventh over. There was sharp turn on offer for the leg-spinner right away, hardly a ringing endorsement of the wicket, what with this being the first morning of the Test. But with the under-fire Shai Hope having gone into his shell, Yasir pitched one on a length around middle stump. Hope failed to get on the front foot in time, and the ball took the edge through to Sarfraz Ahmed as West Indies slumped to 37 for 3.
Amir provided Pakistan the next breakthrough, ripping a yorker into Powell’s toes that tailed in at serious pace, taking the slow pitch out of the equation. The umpire turned down the appeal, but Amir was sure, and Hawk-Eye agreed with him. Wickets continued to fall as West Indies threatened to fold for a sub-200 total, as the hosts were reduced to 154 for 6. The players went in for tea soon after; the fans will probably have needed something stronger.
What they couldn’t have known was Chase and Holder would concoct the perfect tonic to soothe their disappointment in the final session, as the West Indies improbably finished the day on even terms. With the partnership standing at 132, and still unbeaten, the fans had better turn up tomorrow, too. They certainly haven’t seen this before. (ESPNCricinfo)