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Deciding Test tantalisingly poised in Dominica

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SUMMARY: West Indies 7 for 1 (Brathwaite 3*, Powell 4, Yasir 1-2) and 249 (Chase 69, Abbas 5-46) need another 297 runs to beat Pakistan 376 and 174 for 8 dec (Yasir 38, Joseph 3-53) 

On the first three days in Roseau, a total of 15 wickets fell. On the fourth, 14 batsmen succumbed as the deciding Test between West Indies and Pakistan burst into life. With the hosts needing 304 to win, all three results are just about possible, in the game, and by extension, the series.

The start of the evening saw West Indies strike the perfect notes, Alzarri Joseph getting rid of the last two recognised batsmen, Sarfraz Ahmed and Asad Shafiq. With Pakistan 90 for 7, the lead just over 200 but well below what would make Misbah-ul-Haq feel comfortable, Jason Holder’s men might have sniffed the possibility of a sensational win.

Younis Khan gets a guard of honour after playing his final Test innings

But that was before Mohammad Amir and Yasir Shah put together a gutsy 61-run stand that steered Pakistan out of troubled waters and could well have batted West Indies out of the contest. Yasir continued haunting his opposition as he picked up a wicket off what became the last ball of the day.

Misbah and Younis Khan would be quietly confident that they can retire from Test cricket with the honour of spearheading Pakistan to their first series win in the Caribbean. Finishing their careers with scores of 2 and 35 respectively in exchange for that seems like a pretty good trade off. Both men were welcomed back to the pavilion one last time by a set of grateful team-mates lined up in a guard of honour.

All that emotion had to be kept aside, however, during the last hour and a half of play. Pakistan did so and as a result enjoyed complete domination. Yasir, who was caught off a no-ball, and Amir, who was drawn into a few verbal arguments, swung merrily during the final five overs of the innings to ransack 47 runs. Then came the declaration.

Misbah-ul-Haq was also given a guard of honour after being dismissed in his final Test innings

The West Indies openers were left with the unenviable task of batting out the day’s last 25 minutes against the new ball. They hung in bravely right till the final over, but Yasir had one final blow to land and Shan Masood helped out by staying low at silly point and diving to his right to pull off a remarkable catch to dismiss Kieron Powell.

The day began with Pakistan skittling West Indies’ last five wickets out within the first hour. Mohammad Abbas was chiefly responsible for the damage, taking his first five-wicket haul to give Pakistan a seemingly impregnable lead of 129. There was still time for Pakistan to bat seven overs before lunch would be taken but they were rather tentative during that period, scoring just eight runs, while losing two wickets.

Azhar Ali slashed a short, wide delivery to point and Babar Azam followed him off the last ball of the session, edging to short leg. The third umpire was called in to check if the ball had carried to the close-in fielder and though there were visuals that seemed to indicate the ball had kissed the ground before going into Shimron Hetmyer’s hands, Richard Kettleborough went with the on-field official’s soft signal of out.

The second session brought Misbah and Younis – the most prolific batting partnership in Pakistan’s Test history – together at the crease for one final time. It wasn’t the fairytale ending – 8 runs off 28 balls – and the team was back in trouble again but nothing could divert attention away from Misbah as he walked off the field one last time with bat in hand.

Younis appeared in good form, moving his feet adeptly, rotating the strike without any trouble even on a slow pitch. Aside from that, he ushered his protégé Shan Masood through some tough times early in the innings but after struggling to cope with his weakness outside the off stump, Masood was trapped lbw by Shannon Gabriel for 21 off 68 balls.

That brought Misbah to the crease and there was hope that the pair could combine for one last hurrah, a flourish to remember them by, one for the road, whatever you wished to call it. However, while imaginations took off, the run-rate did not.

Misbah probably felt it too, and tried to rectify it the way he knew best. Devendra Bishoo flighted one up to him, and he couldn’t resist one final slog sweep over long-on. It was poorly miscued, flying straight up in the air, and Shane Dowrich took a comfortable catch. Pakistan’s longest-serving captain’s innings was played. Younis fell off the last ball before tea, top-edging a full toss to Kieron Powell at short fine leg, who ran to his left and secured a tumbling, one-handed catch. And so ended a grand era. (ESPNCricinfo)

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