May 28, 2000

Veteran's perform

St. John's - Mr. Justice Malik Qayyum might not be entirely convinced of their commitment, but Pakistan relied on their tried and trusted campaigners to get them out of a couple of tight spots on the third day of the third and final Test yesterday.

Wasim Akram, the 33-year-old veteran in his 95th Test, first turned the match on its head with a lengthy, unbroken spell of incisive, controlled left-arm swing bowling in the morning.

It brought him the last six West Indies wickets at the miserly personal cost of two runs from 28 balls as the home team collapsed from 214 for three at the start to 273 all out two balls after lunch.

Their lead was limited to a meaningless four runs, transforming the match into a straightforward second innings contest.

When the two West Indies old-timers, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose, immediately hit back with two wickets of their own, and a third fell at 49 on the stroke of tea, it was left to Inzamam-ul-Haq, Pakistan's leading batsman in his 64th Test, to see the emergency through.

Just as he and Younis Youhana were seizing the initiative in a partnership of 80, Inzamam cut hard at Franklyn Rose and was given out for 68, caught at the wicket, by umpire Billy Doctrove, standing in his first Test.

Inzamam stood transfixed in apparent disbelief before slowly trudging towards the pavilion, lingering on the boundary's edge to exchange a few words with remonstrating spectators. International Cricket Council match referee Peter Burge took careful note and later fined the lingerer 50 per cent of his match fee for dissent.

Although he also lost captain Moin Khan for ten, Youhana, centurymaker in the second Test and the first innings here, comfortably held firm to the end of a day that was prolonged to over seven hours because of the continuing sluggish over-rate and another spate of various interruptions and delays.

Youhana resumes this morning on 41, nightwatchman Saqlain Mushtaq two and Pakistan 157 for five.

They are ahead by 153 on a pitch still in excellent condition, with two days remaining, a situation as wide open as the second Test at Kensington with two-and-a-half innings complete. The difference is that this is further advanced.

The West Indies were strongly placed when captain Jimmy Adams and Shivnarine Chanderpaul resumed their fourth-wicket partnership of 130.

Their first mission was to see off the second new ball, just 3.2 overs old, but Akram and his long-time pace partner Waqar Younis, in his 64th Test, first throttled them with their persistent accuracy before Akram swept through the lower order.

The West Indies had no answer to the combination. Akram kept going unchanged for 11 consecutive overs from the northern end in the morning while Waqar hardly bowled a bad ball in seven on the trot.

If Qayyum's match-fixing findings, in which Akram, Waqar and Inzamam were all fined, had any effect it was only positive.

Akram's final figures were six for 61, the 23rd time in his 95 Tests that the 33-year-old champion has taken at least half the opposition wickets in a Test innings, and moved his overall tally to 393.

Only Walsh, Kapil Dev and Richard Hadlee have taken more and, once investigations don't spring something off, he will challenge them all.

A measure of the Pakistani pair's precision was three lbw decisions they gained from umpires who had not granted one over the first two days.

For good measure, Akram bowled Chanderpaul for 89 with a late, inswinging full toss when he was the last of the established West Indies batsmen.

Waqar set the collapse in train by pinning Adams on the backfoot after 25 minutes in which he couldn't add a run.

Akram had to wait somewhat longer to make his impact. Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan, once more impressively serene in the face of the type of quality, each-way swing with which he has seldom had to deal in his young career, kept going through to the first drinks break.

But once Akram claimed Sarwan for his first lbw, uncertainly forward an hour and ten minutes into play, there was no stopping him.

Ridley Jacobs, enduring a lengthy run-drought, was hit on the boot by an inswinging yorker and also lbw, prompting Chanderpaul to attack Abdur Razzaq, who had replaced Waqar, with a four and a six, both in the direction of long-on, in the same over.

As soon as Chanderpaul returned to Akram's end, he missed a late, indipping full toss that hit the stumps quarter-way up.

He had resisted for five-and-a-half hours and his return to something nearing his old confidence was an encouraging sign for future engagements.

Ambrose lasted five balls before he sliced a catch to backward point and Rose, after a few meaty boundaries off the returning Waqar, and King were bounced out.

The former skied a catch to long leg, the latter only got his as far as the bowler.

Once more, the West Indies bowlers were left with the job of reclaiming the initiative. Walsh and Ambrose wasted no time.

Imran Nazir cut Walsh's second ball fiercely but directly into Sarwan's safe hands at gully, and Younis Khan ended an unproductive series with an ugly crosshaul that provided Ambrose with a clearcut lbw.

The West Indies regained the initiative when King somehow conjured up a late inswinger to hit the overcautious Mohammad Wasim's unprotected off-stump in the last over to the second interval.

The West Indies have known that Inzamam is Pakistan's batting champion since the hefty right-hander scored the first of his ten Test hundreds on this ground seven years ago.Youhana, with hundreds at Kensington and here on Thursday, is not far behind.

They were relieved to dispose of the ominous Inzamam. They won't breathe easily until they see the back of Youhana.