West Indies 39-3 after Fawad Alam’s 124* lifts Pakistan to 302
Stumps: West Indies 39 for 3 (Afridi 2-13) trail Pakistan 302 for 9 dec (Alam 124, Azam 75, Searles 3-31) by 263 runs
Pakistan find themselves on top at the end of day three thanks to Fawad Alam‘s unbeaten 124, but they have both the opposition and time if they are to level this series.
Things went reasonably enough to plan for Babar Azam’s men in the 53.2 overs that were possible, with West Indies’ top order desperately engaged in damage limitation against Mohammad Abbas and Shaheen Afridi at twilight. The openers and Roston Chase were already back in the pavilion, with the hosts trailing by a further 263 runs with two days to go.
The West Indian innings might have spanned merely 18 overs on Sunday, but felt like it would be the defining period. Pakistan had to press the issue as they look to level the series, and a solid passage of play here for the hosts might well have dealt a decisive blow to those hopes.
Kieran Powell has been out of form for a while now, and when he offered his front pad to a Shaheen Afridi delivery that looked like it had been programmed to hit middle stump, it was little surprise. Kraigg Brathwaite’s dismissal felt like a bigger moment, the West Indies captain playing all around a textbook left-arm inswinger that crashed into his stumps. West Indies were down two wickets for nine, and there was still an hour to go.
These are dream bowling conditions for Mohammad Abbas, and a blank wickets column should not detract from his devastating ability. The subtle seam movement that threatens both edges of the bat was on full display; at times the batters looked as at sea about the direction of travel as they might to a well-disguised googly. There were thick edges through the slips, stifled lbw appeals, and just brilliant intensity when he had ball in hand.
That Chase and Nkrumah Bonner found a way to hang on seemed like it might be vital, but Abbas had softened Chase up for Faheem Ashraf. It was the sort of dismissal Abbas might be proud of, with a length ball shaping back in off the seam, keeping a shade low and ripping past a bat Chase could not get down in time. Under rapidly deteriorating light, Alzarri Joseph was sent out to be the nightwatchman, and managed to stave off further damage to his side.
Despite bright sunshine on a day where 98 overs were originally scheduled to be bowled, only eight balls were possible before lunch had to be taken. A wet patch around the bowler’s run-up at the Michael Holding end was the culprit, with Jason Holder bowling only two balls from that end before asking for the umpires to get involved. Lengthy discussions that involved the captains, coaches, umpires and match referee followed, before officials decided to break for lunch early.
The middle session was at times as soporific as the weather delays over the past four sessions had been, with just six runs scored in the day’s first ten overs. Mohammad Rizwan and Faheem Ashraf eventually brought up the 50-run partnership, but were, in truth, going nowhere, even though Pakistan needed to force a result. Much of that was thanks to regimentally disciplined bowling, with the quick bowlers allowing few run-scoring opportunities.
Those wicket-to-wicket lines paid off, with both men dismissed lbw. Faheem was the first to go, leaving a gap between bat and pad that Seales hones in on, while Rizwan moved too far across to Holder and caught himself stuck in front. Nauman Ali was dispatched for a first ball duck, and suddenly Holder found himself on a hat-trick, while West Indies sniffed a collapse.
The man of the day for Pakistan, though, is indisputably Alam, who continues to make a mockery of his decade-long exclusion from the national side with his fourth hundred this year. He had come back on after retiring hurt on the first day, and following the flurry of wickets at the other end, realised it was time to kick on.
A flick of the wrists that brought him four broke the shackles, and he found himself inching towards three figures. A pull to midwicket took him to the landmark, and as the dressing room rose as one, Fawad raised his bat; he had overseen a Pakistan fightback in the session and ensured they ended the innings on their terms.
After tea, he kicked on in an entertaining 35-run stand with a cavalier Shaheen Afridi, and when the number 10 batter fell, Babar called his players back in. It felt only right that Fawad went in undefeated, and, ever the team man, might have set Pakistan up for a remarkable series-salvaging win in the time that remains. (ESPNcricinfo)