It shouldn’t have come to this, but Pakistan now face a shootout with the West Indies, bidding to win their first ever Test series in the Caribbean. This is being written before the start of play and hence by the time you read this the third day should be underway. While that should mean that the Test match would have taken some shape, but if the first two matches are anything to go by, nothing is certain even on the final couple of days – let alone Day 3.
Pakistan’s capitulation on Day 5 at Bridgetown, when the visitors were bundled out for 81 – their second lowest total ever against the West Indies – meaning that the team fell 106 runs short of creating history. It was also the first time in Test cricket history that all 10 wickets falling on the final day were taken by pacers: Shannon Gabriel being the tormentor in chief with 5/11.
The team is looking to give Misbah and Younis the sendoff they deserve, and become the first Pakistani side to win a series in the West Indies
It can be argued that it wasn’t just the final day crumble where Pakistan lost the Test match. West Indies were 107-5 and 154-6 in the first innings, but still managed to post 312 thanks in large part to Roston Chase’s 131. Then Pakistan were 316-4 in reply, but were bowled out for 393. Bowling West Indies out for less, or getting a significantly bigger lead than 81 would’ve made the final day – and the deteriorating pitch that it accompanied – largely redundant.
A 188-run target on that final day pitch was always going to be ominous, but it is the fourth innings batting of Pakistan that will come under the spotlight. But regardless of what happened on Day 5, it’s Pakistan’s batting in general that hasn’t been up to scratch on the tour.
Barring Misbah-ul-Haq, no Pakistani batsman has managed to post two 35+ scores in four innings. Of most concern is the form of Asad Shafiq, who has only managed 37 runs in the entire series so far. Meanwhile, Babar Azam got out for a pair in Bridge Town and Younis Khan has scored 11 runs in his last three innings.
Any changes in the batting lineup are unlikely, but the team could certainly do with the abovementioned trio stepping up in the decider – collectively ideally.
Azhar Ali, Pakistan’s only centurion in the series after Misbah’s back to back 99s; and Sarfraz Ahmed, whose half-century in the first Test was arguably the decisive innings for Pakistan, will also be looking to perform a starring role, with Test captaincy at stake.
But all eyes would indeed be on Younis and Misbah who would be taking the field for the last time. Misbah would like to build on his already impressive showing with the bat in the series and make one last decisive contribution for the team. Misbah, of course, has the chance to become the only Pakistan captain to win a Test series in the West Indies.
It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Younis Khan has one last epic knock up his sleeve for the third Test. The man with the most runs and most centuries for Pakistan would look to make those last runs that might help his side make history.
As far as the bowling is concerned, it would be interesting to see if Pakistan go with two spinners again. Shadab Khan was impressive in bits, but with one wicket to show in 40 overs it is likely that he would make way in the final Test.
But regardless of who is picked, most of the wicket-taking burden would be on Yasir Shah’s shoulders, along with Mohammed Amir. Mohammmad Abbas has also been impressive, and should look to support Amir in getting early breakthroughs, especially in the first innings. But West Indies’ second innings is going to be all about Yasir and whether or not he can do the damage to take Pakistan home.
Pakistan have it all to do as they look to give Misbah and Younis the sendoff they deserve, and become the first Pakistani side to conquer the Caribbean. It’s an historic weekend ahead, either way.