First Test

Pakistan in West Indies, 2011

Tony Cozier

At Providence, Guyana, May 12-15, 2011. West Indies won by 40 runs. Toss: West Indies. Test debuts: D. Bishoo; Mohammad Salman.


Darren Sammy is ecstatic after snagging Umar Akmal, West Indies v Pakistan, 1st Test, Providence, 4th day, May 15, 2011
Ending the drought: Darren Sammy makes Umar Akmal his fifth lbw victim, as West Indies hurtle towards their first win in 18 Tests. © AFP
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West Indies' first Test win since February 2009 was especially satisfying. It came against the background of familiar controversy: Chris Gayle was left out after an incendiary radio interview, while Chanderpaul was grudgingly selected after being just as vocal about his exclusion from the preceding one-day series. Victory was particularly fulfilling for Sammy, who responded to widespread questioning of his place in the side with a performance that won him the match award: his spot-on medium-pace was ideally suited to the conditions, and produced match figures of 29-13-45-7.

In this case, statistics did not lie: they revealed the defects of a pitch as hard and dry as a board, which led to a record 20 lbw dismissals, allowed just a solitary individual half- century and kept the overall run-rate to 2.4 an over. Pakistan's spinners capitalised on some generous turn, claiming 17 wickets, with Saeed Ajmal's off-breaks and doosras bringing him 11 for 111 (almost identical to Wasim Akram's 11 for 110 at Antigua in May 2000, the best for Pakistan in a losing cause). For West Indies, Sammy and Rampaul shared 14 wickets, mainly by adhering to the stump-to-stump line that made the most of the inconsistent bounce.

The pattern of the contest was immediately obvious when Mohammad Hafeez was given the new ball, and quickly removed Devon Smith, by now his bunny. As they had in the one-day series, West Indies' batsmen struggled against Hafeez, Ajmal and slow left- armer Abdur Rehman. Only Simmons, in his first Test since 2009, played with any fluency in an innings interrupted by a knock on the left knee that forced him to retire when 41. On his return, he was eighth out at 175 before Roach, Rampaul and Bishoo carefully added 51 runs for the last two wickets.

Batting was no easier for Pakistan. Rampaul and Sammy despatched the openers, after which Bishoo, making his Test debut on his home ground, claimed four middle-order wickets with his canny leg-spin, among them Misbah-ul-Haq on the back foot to a flipper and Umar Akmal to a typical head-in-the-air slog. It needed a steady unbeaten 40 from the left-hander Rehman, at No. 8, to reduce the deficit to 66.

That lead appeared less daunting as West Indies faltered again. Smith fell once more to Hafeez, this time to the first ball he bowled: it was the sixth time in a row Hafeez had dismissed him, two short of the international record of eight, suffered by South Africa's Ashwell Prince against Shane Warne. The lead was only 170 when Rampaul was ninth out. But three sharp close catches were missed, and Chanderpaul was lucky to survive a run-out appeal on six after an inconclusive TV replay. Dogged as ever, Chanderpaul collected yet another not-out - his 35th in 130 Tests - and held firm with the level-headed Bishoo. The last pair's 48, along with the late first-innings resistance, were vital factors in the final outcome.

Pakistan began their quest for 219 with 36 overs remaining on the third afternoon. With Rampaul and Roach - both exceeding 90mph - creating early mayhem, it briefly looked as if a fourth day might not be necessary. Rampaul took care of Taufeeq Umar and Azhar Ali with his third and fifth balls, while Roach had Hafeez lbw with his eighth, after a referral. It would have been six for four had Darren Bravo at slip not shelled Asad Shafiq's straightforward edge off the first ball of Rampaul's second over. There was further luck for Shafiq at 38, when Sammy's off-cutter brushed the off stump without removing the bails. He and Misbah saw out the day to set up a tense finale, with 139 still needed and seven wickets to play with.

Next morning Rampaul's sharp in-cutter breached Shafiq's defence in the third over, to tilt the balance yet again, but Misbah and Umar Akmal kept Pakistan in touch during a stand of 52. Yet on a pitch becoming less reliable with every over, an unplayable delivery was never far away - and Sammy suddenly conjured them almost at will in a decisive spell of five for 11 in 52 balls. Four of those were lbw and, after Smith swooped low to catch Rehman at second slip off Rampaul, Sammy fittingly formalised the outcome by scattering Ajmal's stumps, setting off understandably high-spirited celebrations.

Man of the Match: D. J. G. Sammy. Close of play: First day, West Indies 209-9 (Roach 16, Bishoo 10); Second day, West Indies 34-2 (Simmons 18, Roach 3); Third day, Pakistan 80-3 (Asad Shafiq 40, Misbah-ul-Haq 34).

© John Wisden & Co.