First Test

Pakistan v West Indies, 2006

Craig Cozier

At Lahore, November 11, 12, 13, 14, 2006. Pakistan won by nine wickets. Toss: West Indies.

West Indies, lifted by encouraging one-day performances in Malaysia and India, were quickly brought to earth as they crashed to a heavy defeat. Pakistan, on the other hand, shed their off-field worries over the forfeited Oval Test and the drug bans on their two leading fast bowlers. In the absence of the suspended Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif, the unsung new-ball pairing of Umar Gul and Shahid Nazir shared 15 wickets against opponents whose batting was a let-down, apart from Lara's brilliance in both innings.

Mohammad Yousuf's sixth century of the year built Pakistan a formidable lead, and, unlike Lara, he received solid support down the order. West Indies were also undermined by some butter-fingered fielding, which let Yousuf off three times, and by a shaky umpiring performance from the Sri Lankan Asoka de Silva.

Lara chose to bat first under overcast skies, but he alone lifted the gloom as Gul and Nazir made the most of some loose strokeplay. "We knew it was a bit misty and the conditions didn't clear as quickly as we wanted them to," admitted Lara, "but we did play some really poor shots."

Nazir, in only the 11th Test of a ten-year career, made the early difference. Gayle dominated an opening stand of 41, blasting six fours off 28 balls. Then, struck high on the pad, he was given out by de Silva, and Nazir and Gul took the chance to rip through the top order. West Indies went into lunch at 122 for six, Bravo and Ramdin gift-wrapping their wickets with inappropriate strokes against Danish Kaneria. Lara, slowly finding his touch, and the effectively unorthodox Mohammed added 52, the highest stand of the innings, but then Gul found Lara's edge with a beauty, and he swept aside the tail as the total just inched past 200.

For a while, with Taylor bowling well as Pakistan dipped to 140 for four, and later 285 for six, it looked as if the lead would be a small one. But that reckoned without Yousuf, and his fortune. Ganga dropped a chance in the gully when he had 43; at 53 he survived a stumping appeal off Mohammed, when de Silva chose not to consult the TV replay; at 101 Taylor floored a return chance; and at 114 Lara dropped a tough slip catch. Yousuf cashed in, extending his 20th Test century to 192 in more than eight hours after a seventh-wicket stand of 148 with Kamran Akmal, back to form after his disappointing tour of England. Akmal was the 50th Test victim for Gayle's underrated off-spin, which also ended Yousuf's quest for a double-century - but a deficit of 279 was far too much for West Indies.

The resistance came from a predictable quarter. Lara's 33rd Test hundred was filled with breathtaking strokes, and he and Chanderpaul produced a fourth-day fightback in a stand of 137. On the ground where he had made his Test debut 16 years previously, Lara hit 19 fours in all directions, starting with two off his first two balls, and he managed to use up five hours as well, which is what mattered in the context. His first century in Pakistan came up with a dazzling back-foot cover-drive, but it brought a low-key acknowledgment: "I didn't take my helmet off," Lara explained. "I didn't go out just to score a hundred. I wanted to bat all day and tomorrow."

But when Lara was leg-before, sweeping at the off-spinner Mohammad Hafeez, the last six wickets folded for 53. Chanderpaul, still feeling the effects of food poisoning from India, fell to the second new ball, and Pakistan cruised to victory as the sun set on the fourth day. "After all that has happened, the boys were a bit down, and this could have been difficult," Inzamam said. "But they worked hard and believed in themselves."

Man of the Match: Umar Gul.

© John Wisden & Co.