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Devendra Bishoo’s effort went in vain as West Indies failed to get past the line. Image courtesy: West Indies Cricket Twitter

“You can’t take West Indies lightly because they are a young side and they have everything to prove and such a side is more motivated,” were the words by Pakistan Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq before the start of first Test against West Indies and didn’t they come true? West Indies, who entered this Test series after getting whitewashed in both T20Is and ODIs by Pakistan, were never expected to play with such competitive attitude and that too after Azhar Ali scored a triple-century. Well, when was the last time West Indies gave such nail-biting end to a Test? Can’t remember? It’s ok, it happens when it comes to West Indies in Tests these days.

The last time when West Indies played in such manner was against England in May 2015 at Barbados. In that Test, they first conceded the lead and then followed it up with a strong comeback by bowling out England for 123 in their second innings and then somehow chased the total of 196. Frankly speaking, they chased that total only because it was below 300 and the same reason applies to their defeat against Pakistan as they played in quite similar way to that Test against England.

A similar spark was visible in their performance during the Kingston Test against India this year. After being bowled out for 196 and conceding 500, they put up a remarkable show in the second innings with their lower order showing terrific fighting spirit and securing a draw from the clutches of defeat.

Coming back to this game, had the target been below 300, West Indies would have surely pulled off a win but still, who would have thought that sort of show from the Caribbean side after a triple-ton in the first innings. But not to forget, the triple-ton as well as Pakistan’s total of 579 was possible due to a combination of poor fielding, missed catches, clueless captaincy and tired bowlers of West Indies. It may sound a harsh, but it was not a hard-earned triple-century for Azhar. It was West Indies team’s fault which led Azhar post such big score.

After declaring the first innings by posting a mammoth total, Pakistan were expected to bowl West Indies out under 300 and then win the match by making them follow on but something else was destined to happen. Experienced Caribbean batsmen Darren Bravo and Marlon Samuels showed immense character in their first innings by scoring 87 and 76 respectively and helping their side to reach a respectable score of 357. They could not avoid the follow-on but captain Misbah probably took an unwanted decision of not enforcing West Indies to bat again despite having the lead of 222 runs.

That decision by Misbah changed the course of entire match followed by the approach of all Pakistani batsmen in their second innings. Had Misbah enforced the follow-on, the contest could have ended on day four itself but he chose to bat with the approach to score quick runs, which gave advantage to West Indies bowlers, especially leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo.

Misbah probably took West Indies pretty lightly after the first half of the match and their indifferent batting approach, which backfired them, gave West Indies some hope to win the contest after Bishoo’s tremendous spell of 8 for 49.

Many would say that it was Pakistani batsmen who gave away their wickets rather than Bishoo taking them. But to bowl in such a dominating fashion on unresponsive deck and exploiting the opposition plan requires some skill and smartness.

The target of 346 was not huge one and West Indies have a knack of creating upsets in such type of chases. Remember their chase of 418 runs against Australia in 2003, something like that was on the cards. Also, not to forget that epic contest between West Indies and Pakistan in the third Test of 2000 at Antigua; that match was evenly poised but in the end West Indies won it by just one-wicket by chasing 216.

To chase 346, West Indies needed a decent start, which they did not get as always but at the end of day four, they were at 2 for 95 with 251 more needed to score on the final day of Test, which was not a huge task but for West Indies, it was.

On day five, West Indies needed to play with the mindset that they need to score only 251 but that mindset was probably shattered on the very first delivery of the day on which Samuels got out. It was evident that Darren Bravo had to bat throughout the day five to end the match in their favour and after Samuels’ departure; it became simply too much for him in the absence of any reliable partner.

After Samuels’ wicket, commentators and fans started predicting the end of the match by the second session but Bravo stood like a wall and kept batting. The best part about his batting was the way he dealt with bouncers. He kept leaving every short ball  and only once in the entire day five, Bravo was hit by a bouncer.

The other best part about Bravo’s and West Indies’ batting was their approach. Despite being on the back seat after losing the wicket of Samuels early in the day they played for win and not draw. Many will disagree but this match ended in the similar way India lost to Australia in the first Test of Border-Gavaskar series of 2014-15 at Adelaide. While chasing 363 on day five, India lost the plot after Virat Kohli’s wicket, who anchored the innings with his 141-run knock. Bravo in this Test against Pakistan played in similar way. One would say that Kohli’s strike-rate was much better than that of Bravo but he had a partner who played a vital role in that match which Bravo never had.

Bravo’s batting brought the Pakistan team on the back foot and at one point, it looked like he will take his team to victory line and Test cricket will witness its first match where a triple-ton would go in in vain but a screamer from Shah changed everything.

Not to forget that Misbah’s captaincy was not quite impressive on day five as he spread the field instead of attacking. Good that he had bowlers like Shah, who can change the course of match at any time.

After Bravo’s wicket, it was clear that West Indies were going for a draw now but then came their same old story of poor running between the wickets. All hard work went down the drain with their unusual dose of mindlessness.

We should also not forget the fact that only twice in the history of cricket, last three wickets of a team scored more than 150 to chase the total. The latest of those two incidents happened more than 100-years back in 1907, during first Ashes Test of 1907-08.

Yes, in the end Pakistan won this Test but credit goes to West Indies too for fighting hard and keeping the contest alive till the last session. This was 400th Test for Pakistan and it ended in the perfect manner for them. Surely, this Test will be remembered more for West Indies’ fight back than Azhar’s triple-ton.

A Pakistan team playing in full swing are surely a great advertisement for Test cricket. Earlier, they beat Sri Lanka, Australia followed by England at their home and now West Indies. In last few years, they have continuously produced such gripping matches, which is quite an achievement for them but it could not have been more interesting without West Indies, as the best part about their effort was that it was unexpected.

(Abhishek Kumar is a cricket devotee currently staffing with CricLife and CricketCountry. He can be followed at abhicricket.kumar and @abhik2593)