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TEST: West Indies fight despite Yasir’s three-for

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SUMMARY: West Indies 218 for 5 (Dowrich 20*, Holder 11*, Yasir 3-108) trail Pakistan 376 (Azhar 127, Misbah 59, Azam 55, Sarfraz 51, Chase 4-103) by 158 runs 

Jason Holder and Shane Dowrich kept West Indies from disintegrating in the last hour of an engrossing but slow-moving day, finishing up at 218 for five, still trailing Pakistan by 158 runs. Things had looked bleak for Holder’s men when their best batsman Roston Chase walked off midway after being struck on the elbow by a Mohammad Amir bouncer, but the others pulled their weight stoically enough to ensure they could claim a share of the spoils.

West Indies didn’t lose any of their grit with Hope’s dismissal at the stroke of tea. For little over an hour after the break, they frustrated Pakistan before Vishaul Singh, who has had a torrid first series, probably went a little too deep into his shell, especially against the faster bowlers. Even so, it was admirable to see the rookie fight it out on the pitch under considerable pressure although Misbah-ul-Haq was perhaps guilty of making it a little too easy for him, carrying on with the part-time of Azhar Ali from one end.

Yasir Shah took the first three wickets to fall

With the hosts fighting so gamely, the moment that turned the session against them was an exceptionally cruel twist of fate. The new ball was just three overs old When Mohammad Amir hurried Roston Chase into a pull shot, the ball striking him flush on the elbow. After lengthy treatment on the field, the series’ highest run-scorer was forced to retire hurt.

For a Pakistan team that had been unable to penetrate in the session up till then, it would have seemed like a wicket. Vishaul succumbed two overs later to – predictably enough – pace. Mohammad Abbas swung the new ball in sharply to trap him plumb in front. Suddenly the West Indies looked vulnerable again, trailing as they did by 200 runs.

Fortunately for the West Indies, Holder and Dowrich showed the same determination to ensure they didn’t go in to stumps having suffered any other blows in the face of a masterclass in discipline from the Pakistan pacers. Amir, in particular, continued to carry menace with the sort of short delivery that had injured Chase, striking Holder in the chest area once, and cramping both batsmen with the bouncer time and again.

West Indies started the day in the sort of sedate fashion that has characterised much of this Test match, meandering along at a scoring rate well below two per over; only one boundary came in the first 25 overs. The day only came to life when Powell decided to take the attack to Yasir, but after shuffling across and sweeping him to the vacant square leg boundary once, he dragged a lofted hit to Azhar Ali at deep midwicket.

Jason Holder goes big late in the day

Shimron Hetmyer came out with the same plan of not allowing Yasir to settle. He drove Yasir for a boundary in the first over he faced him, and soon after, dispatched a short delivery for six over deep midwicket. But the wily legspinner had the last laugh again, getting one to turn in sharply from the rough, kissing Hetmyer’s gloves with Sarfraz Ahmed taking a sharp catch. Pakistan may have not had the wicket had Sarfraz not confidently signalled for a review almost the moment umpire Bruce Oxenford adjudged not out.

Even so, West Indies still looked for scoring opportunities off Yasir, who ended the day having conceded nearly half the runs of the entire innings. It wasn’t that he was bowling poorly – a lot of his balls were perfect legspinners with sharp turn – but his consistency deserted him, prompting a rare reprimand from Misbah. Yet, it didn’t seem like he was far away from a wicket either.

That duly arrived in the last over before lunch when Brathwaite, who looked fairly comfortable up until then, jabbed at a delivery that spun away sharply to take the edge through to the wicketkeeper. The deadlock of the first hour was well and truly broken by then.

As in the first session, it was impossible to ignore the feeling that that the game was moving on only while Yasir was bowling. Ironically, it was Azhar Ali who pulled things back for Pakistan during the afternoon, taking the only wicket in the session off its last ball, with Hope slicing to Misbah at short cover.

It was a game that could have been snatched away from the West Indies in every session today. That they managed to hold Pakistan off and ensure they go in to day four still able to claim parity must feel like a small win in itself. (ESPNCricinfo)

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