First Test

Pakistan v West Indies

At Sharjah, January 31, February 1, 2, 3, 4. Pakistan won by 170 runs. Toss: Pakistan. Test debuts: Naved Latif; R. O. Hinds.

By the end of the third day, West Indies seemed safe. They had saved the follow-on with only five wickets down, Chanderpaul and the debutant Ryan Hinds were batting fluently, and the first Test at Sharjah, Test cricket's 83rd venue, was heading for a draw. Five sessions later, they had succumbed to another heavy defeat.

Concerns about the pitch's durability had increased as its surface cracks widened, but it stood up reasonably well. Although the bounce was slow and low, it was pace bowling of exceptional quality that proved decisive. Waqar Younis was outstanding as he shot out West Indies' lower half for 41 runs on the fourth morning, while Shoaib Akhtar and Abdul Razzaq wrecked them on the final day. Pakistan were superior in all departments, but the one in which West Indies really let themselves down was fielding. Every one of the many chances they missed proved expensive.

The honours of a hard-fought opening day were shared, though barely anyone was there to watch. Pakistan batted circumspectly, yet the five wickets they lost were all avoidable. The West Indians bowled with discipline and control, and held the advantage at 178 for five after tea. But Yousuf Youhana and Rashid Latif steadied the innings and went on to give Pakistan the initiative in a match-winning stand of 204 in just 57 overs. They should have been separated early on the second morning, when Rashid, on 28, cut Dillon to first slip, where Gayle missed it. It was not until the second over after lunch that the partnership was broken, with Youhana dragging on after a chanceless six-hour 146. It was his ninth Test hundred; Rashid had just completed his first, before converting it with increasing belligerence into 150.

The hapless Gayle made some amends by taking the last three wickets, including Rashid, and contributing a half-century as West Indies reached an encouraging 96 for one in reply to Pakistan's 493. A string of fifties averted the follow-on with some comfort, although no one passed Gayle's 68. Chanderpaul and Ryan Hinds had taken their sixth-wicket stand to 121 on the fourth morning when Waqar forced Chanderpaul to play on. Rolling back the years, Waqar defied the somnolent pitch to work subtly through the lower order, claiming four for eight in 31 balls.

More poor fielding and diffident captaincy allowed Pakistan to increase their lead from 127 to 341 - with Rashid scoring a lively 47 in 42 balls - and give themselves exactly 100 overs to force home their advantage. With the pitch still playing well, West Indies came to no harm until midway through the final morning, when Shoaib rattled Ganga's stumps to claim the first of his five victims. Even so, they reached lunch at 111 for one, with Gayle looking comfortable on 62. The collapse began shortly after the break. Going round the wicket, Shoaib accounted for the two tall left-handers, Gayle and Wavell Hinds, who was overwhelmed by a brutal ball which climbed to face-height and had him caught behind off the glove. It was Rashid's 100th Test dismissal. After the controversial dismissal of Campbell, who was given run out by the third umpire despite a series of inconclusive replays, Razzaq, repeatedly finding reverse swing, struck three times in an over. He and Shoaib both returned Test-best figures as the last nine wickets tumbled for 56 runs in less than 23 overs. Pakistan celebrated victory with a session to spare.

Man of the Match: Shoaib Akhtar.

Close of play: First day, Pakistan 230-5 (Yousuf Youhana 78, Rashid Latif 27); Second day, West Indies 54-0 (Ganga 11, Gayle 41); Third day, West Indies 325-5 (Chanderpaul 45, R. O. Hinds 55); Fourth day, West Indies 24-0 (Ganga 19, Gayle 5).

© John Wisden & Co