Windies make strong reply to Pakistan's 357
An outstanding spell of new-ball bowling and a resolute opening partnership changed the complexion of the Multan Test, putting West Indies in a comfortable position at the end of the second day. Jerome Taylor's fiery five-for - his second in Tests - loosened Pakistan's grip on the game before Chris Gayle and Daren Ganga, with a methodical 151-run partnership, consolidated the advantage.
Pakistan didn't look like the side that dominated the proceedings yesterday. A combination of Taylor's fizz and Corey Collymore's metronomic accuracy felled them from a commanding 263 for 4 to 357 all out. They didn't have much joy on the field either with Gayle and Ganga blunting the new-ball pairing before frustrating the rest. Combining for their fifth century partnership, they cashed in on a belter of a pitch to become the first pair of West Indies openers to go past hundred in Pakistan.
Both began uncertainly - three of Gayle's four fours flew off the edge - but settled upon a sturdy foundation once they saw off the new ball. Umar Gul and Shahid Nazir, the matchwinners in the first Test at Lahore, had their moments but with the pitch easing out and both batsmen resolutely biding time, West Indies were in control.
Danish Kaneria gained appreciable spin, nearly bowling Ganga behind the legs on one occasion, but the slow nature of the turn allowed the batsmen enough time to adjust their strokes. The faster men lost their bite once the ball got older and the introduction of Mohammad Hafeez, bowling his generous long-hops, didn't help matters. Having plodded to his half-century in 101 deliveries, Gayle opened out emphatically towards the end of the day. Ganga maintained a steady rate but his ability to put away the loose balls allowed him to tick along just fine.
It was a partnership in keeping with the methodical theme of the day after the bowlers had executed their plans splendidly this morning. Brimming with energy, Taylor exploited the life on the pitch. He ensured the line was outside, and sometimes wide, of off stump; he varied his length sensibly; and, most importantly, steamed in hard and hit the deck regularly.
At the other end was the untiring Collymore, pounding in 15 overs on the trot, and finally, after what seemed an age, being rewarded for his efforts. He found the nick several times and endured a couple of grassed chances - by Runako Morton at gully and Dwayne Bravo at third slip - but hardly wavered in accuracy.
Both bowlers realised that Pakistan would try and attack - which any team would've done when perched so comfortably - and used the conditions to their advantage. The tenth ball of the day, when Shoaib Malik edged a legcutter from Collymore, should have produced a wicket but Morton put down a sharp low catch. It didn't take too long for the breakthrough to arrive: Taylor struck in the next over, squaring up Inzamam-ul-Haq with a good-length delivery outside off and inducing a healthy edge to the wicketkeeper.
Having received the reprieve on 20, Malik decided to make the most of his luck and smashed four more fours. His luck finally ran out on 42 when Bravo, at third slip, dived right in front of Brian Lara at second and pulled off a sensational one-handed catch. Kamran Akmal chose the breezy route, falling after a 12-ball 17, but Abdul Razzaq chose to stagnate. His adhesive methods yielded just 16 in 89 balls and he didn't show any intent to step up the rate, even when he was partnered by tailenders. He made no attempt to farm the strike and preferred to stonewall rather than shift gear. That he scored two fours at a time when Pakistan would have given anything to accelerate didn't help matters.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo