Akhtar and Razzaq annihilate the West Indies
SHARJAH-Shoaib Akhtar and Abdur Razzaq carved up the West Indian batting with venomous pace, to rustle up a comprehensive victory for Pakistan by 170 runs. It was Pakistan's fifth consecutive win under Waqar Younis, the first in this sequence being their Old Trafford triumph against England last year.
The second and last Test of this truncated rubber will be played on an adjacent wicket from Thursday. With an emphatic victory under their belt, the Pakistanis are not going to relent and the 'visitors', to their further dismay, may find out that even the neutrality of the venue is no help in restoring their fortunes.
Set a daunting target of 342, and 318 in arrears at the start of the day, the West Indians were never likely to win. But at 115 for one with two sessions to go they must have harboured hopes of some reprieve by ensuring a draw. That was not to be, as Shoaib tore into the upper order and then came back to annihilate the tail, returning his career-best figures of five for 24, improving on his 5 for 43 against South Africa in Durban in 1997-98. In between, Razzaq struck some telling blows, to take four wickets from the other end for 25. The duo wrought such havoc that the last nine West Indian wickets could add only 56, the last seven, a mere 25. For their part, the West Indies may have cause to grumble about a decision or two - in particular the run out of Sherwin Campbell. They would argue, with some merit, that the benefit of doubt should have gone to the batsman. But the third umpire in front of the television screen felt convinced that Campbell had failed to reach his crease. Despite that point of contention, the fact is that the West Indies batsman had no answer to the sheer pace of Akhtar and Razzaq, who either bowled or trapped leg before seven of the batsmen. It was high-quality stuff, on a wicket not conducive to pace bowling, and the West Indies had no answer to that. They simply disintegrated, much as they had only recently against Muralitharan and in one of the Tests against Chaminda Vaas.
The day had started on a brighter note for Carl Hooper's charges, as Chris Gayle and Darren Ganga held the fort with considerable confidence - the former obviously more adventurous than the latter.
The first hour saw the Pakistani bowlers other than Akhtar hit for runs, 49 from 12 overs, 19 of these from Danish Kaneria's first over, Gayle thumping him for four boundaries. Ganga's fall, to an express Shoaib delivery, didn't stop Gayle from going after the bowling and the West Indies reached the lunch break very comfortably placed at 111-1, Gayle's contribution an impressive 62.
At that point, the Pakistanis must have felt desperate. They shouldn't have been overly concerned. Shoaib struck two telling blows after lunch. Gayle was castled, his stroke-filled 66 including 15 boundaries. Next over Shoaib's rising delivery took Wavell Hinds' gloves and Rashid Latif doesn't miss anything these days. It was his 100th victim behind the stumps, in his 28th Test - a really memorable one for him as he reached two other major milestones: his maiden hundred which also took him past 1,000 Test runs in style. Great comeback this, and Rashid deserves it.
Campbell was adjudged run out, and from here on Razzaq took over; his three wickets in one over took the wind out of the Caribbean sails. The first ball of his first over, Razzaq had Shivnarine Chanderpaul caught behind, and the fifth and sixth deliveries trapped Hooper and Ridley Jacobs in front of the wicket. At seven for 150, the slide was irreversible.
Razzaq was not to get his second hat-trick in Test cricket, and Shoaib too was denied the honour after he clean-bowled Mervyn Dillon and Cameron Cuffy. Ryan Hinds and Pedro Collins defied Shoaib and Razzaq for a while, putting together 16 runs in a brave last-wicket stand, but then Razzaq put this to an end by clean bowling Collins. Pakistan has drawn first blood, and they are hungry for more.