Series Review

Pakistan v West Indies, 2006

Craig Cozier

Test matches (3): Pakistan 2, West Indies 0
One-day internationals (5): Pakistan 3, West Indies 1

Pakistan went into their first true home series against West Indies for nine years (the two Tests of 2001-02 were played in Sharjah after security concerns) in some disarray, still reeling from the drug bans handed out to Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif, and with the Oval Test walk-off fresh in the memory.

But a stunning performance from Mohammad Yousuf, who scored 665 runs in the Test series, smashing the overall records for runs and centuries in a calendar year in the process, lifted them to a comfortable victory in the Tests. Then good all-round displays - spearheaded by Naved-ul-Hasan, who took 11 wickets in the four matches played - gave them the one-day series too.

Yousuf's abundance was backed up by Umar Gul's big-hearted efforts with the new ball, which helped compensate for the absence of Akhtar and Asif. Gul, so impressive a few months earlier in England, again supplied early penetration, and delivered the big scalps in both victories. His 16 wickets included a five-for to lay down the marker on the first day of the series, and the key strikes to remove Brian Lara and Ramnaresh Sarwan when their stand threatened to block victory on the last. Shahid Nazir was Gul's best support, his accurate swingers producing breakthroughs at vital times. Danish Kaneria never carried the same threat, but restored his status as a leg-spinner to reckon with after a Lara battering at Multan by contributing significantly to the win at Karachi.

Despite modest contributions from the rest, including himself, the restored captain Inzamam-ul-Haq was keen to stress his team's cohesion: they went unchanged through a three-Test series for only the second time in Pakistan's history. Inzamam also lavished praise on Yousuf, but attracted some censure locally for describing him after the series as Pakistan's best-ever batsman. Yousuf himself avoided any comparisons with greats of the past, such as Hanif Mohammad and Javed Miandad, instead being keen to credit his conversion to Islam just over a year earlier and the discipline it had given him.

It was a disappointing end to a long tour for West Indies, who had started by reaching the finals of a one-day tournament in Malaysia and the Champions Trophy in India. With Lara in superlative form, they might have won the Second Test but for some shoddy catching, and this let them down at crucial times in the other matches too: Yousuf was let off numerous times.

Their batsmen started badly, with a costly first-day collapse in the opening Test. Although Lara's batting, and the bowling of the pacy Jerome Taylor and the consistent (if unlucky) Corey Collymore offered hope, another overseas failure was the eventual outcome. The 2-0 Test scoreline flattered Pakistan a little but, for all West Indies' youthful promise and renewed fight, they could not shake off a nasty losing habit. The collapse to defeat in the Third Test left them with a record of two wins against 23 losses in 35 Tests since December 2003.

Lara corrected his own dismal record in Pakistan (highest score 44 in four previous Tests) with 122 in the First Test and a blistering 216 in the Second: reports of his cricketing demise had been greatly exaggerated. Sixteen years after his Test debut in Pakistan, Lara produced a masterclass at Multan: his hundred off 77 balls was the fastest of his 34 centuries, and it arrived inside one exhilarating pre-lunch session. His twinkle-toed assault on Kaneria, in which one over was carted for 26, was yet another special performance from a rare genius. But none of the other West Indian batsmen enhanced his reputation, and it was their failures that led to the defeats at Lahore and Karachi. Vice-captain Sarwan endured the indignity of being dropped for the Second Test, a reflection of the team management's frustration at his underachieving talent.

Throughout the series, West Indies were also let down by faulty catching, with close to 20 chances grassed. Significantly, Yousuf benefited in each of his five innings, sometimes more than once. While Yousuf welcomed those gifts, he was less pleased about the lifeless pitches which dulled all the bowlers in the Tests. The surfaces were low, slow, and devoid of grass, detracting from strokeplay and condemning the contests to be largely attritional.

It was ironic that the shift to one-day fixtures brought juicy pitches which helped the bowlers. These were due to a cold front that triggered floods across the country and hampered the groundstaff 's preparations. The fivematch series, quickly reduced to four after an opening washout, hardly brought the best out of either side as they shaped up for the World Cup. Several regular players were missing at times and, although Pakistan's series victory helped them forget their failure in the Champions Trophy, they knew not to get too excited about the result. Coach Bob Woolmer was most pleased about the re-emergence of Naved as a significant fast bowler, and the encouraging debut of left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman.

West Indies were weakened when Dwayne Bravo went home after the Tests because of family illness, while Sarwan's ill-fated tour was cut short by a yorker from Gul which broke his right foot on the final day of the Test series. A brilliant century from Marlon Samuels in the lone one-day triumph offered a hint of optimism. But the team's inconsistency remained a worry, and a lame display in the decider sent them home with nothing to show from their long Asian odyssey.

Match reports for

Tour Match: Pakistan Cricket Board Patron's XI v West Indians at Lahore, Nov 8-9, 2006
Scorecard

1st Test: Pakistan v West Indies at Lahore, Nov 11-14, 2006
Report | Scorecard

2nd Test: Pakistan v West Indies at Multan, Nov 19-23, 2006
Report | Scorecard

3rd Test: Pakistan v West Indies at Karachi, Nov 27-Dec 1, 2006
Report | Scorecard

1st ODI: Pakistan v West Indies at Rawalpindi, Dec 5, 2006
Report | Scorecard

2nd ODI: Pakistan v West Indies at Faisalabad, Dec 7, 2006
Report | Scorecard

3rd ODI: Pakistan v West Indies at Lahore, Dec 10, 2006
Report | Scorecard

4th ODI: Pakistan v West Indies at Multan, Dec 13, 2006
Report | Scorecard

5th ODI: Pakistan v West Indies at Karachi, Dec 16, 2006
Report | Scorecard

© John Wisden & Co.