Brian Lara's decision to bat backfired quite badly as West Indies were bundled out for 206 on the opening day at Lahore. Lara himself battled hard, scoring a classy 61 - his first half-century in Pakistan - but the rest of the batsmen struggled in murky conditions on a pitch which offered significant seam movement to the Pakistan pace attack.
Umar Gul finished with rather flattering figures of 5 for 65 - including the prized wicket of Lara - while Shahid Nazir made the early inroads with three top-order wickets. When play was called off early because of bad light, Pakistan had progressed to 39 for 1.
The early exchanges suggested that West Indies' move to bat was a wise one as Chris Gayle clattered a wayward Gul for plenty of fours on the way to a typically rambunctious 34 off 28 balls, but once Gul made the breakthrough, Pakistan were in control almost throughout. Dwayne Bravo and Dave Mohammed helped Lara in the battle, but once West Indies had slipped to 52 for 4, but those mini partnerships only helped limit the damage and help the team get past 200.
Gul finished with most of the honours, but the bowler who set up Pakistan was Nazir. The absence of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif allowed him an opportunity to make his mark, and he made the most of it. The pace wasn't threatening - he bowled around the 130 kmph - but once he found his radar all the batsmen found him more than a handful.
Gayle was beaten by one which nipped back into him - though he was unlucky to be given out as the ball was clearly going over the stumps - Ramnaresh Sarwan succumbed to a brute of a delivery which lifted, seamed away, squared him up, and took the outside edge, while Shivnarine Chanderpaul was another victim of one that straightened after pitching. It would have been even worse for West Indies had Asoka de Silva ruled Lara lbw when Nazir trapped him in front on 0 - the ball pitched in line with middle and leg, straightened and would have hit the stumps - but he ruled otherwise.
Lara survived, and slowly attempted to put the innings back on track, putting on 44 for the fifth wicket with Bravo, and 52 for the seventh with Mohammed, who contributed a plucky 35. Lara wasn't always convincing against the fast bowlers, but he handled Kaneria quite masterfully, using his feet and stretching fully forward to negate the spin from the rough - which was quite alarming for a first-day pitch - and then using the width of the crease to push back and cut when Kaneria pitched it short. He looked good for many more when Gul struck against the run of play, conjuring up a peach of a delivery which pitched, seamed away, and forced an edge.
Gul bowled a mixed bag - he was all over the place with his control in the first session but he also managed to produce wicket-taking deliveries, nailing Ganga, Lara, and then cleaning up the tail to finish with his third five-wicket haul in Tests.
Pakistan's openers had their share of problems when they came out to bat, as Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards got enough pace, bounce and movement to cause plenty of discomfort. Farhat played and missed repeatedly before Edwards finally got one to straighten and trap him in front. Mohammad Hafeez had his share of luck, but to his credit attempted to play close to his body, and was willing to bat out long periods without scoring. Both he and Younis Khan played with soft hands, placed the ball in the gaps, and ran the singles to keep the score ticking over. The umpires finally called off play with 17 overs still left in the day as even the floodlights weren't enough to stop the gloom.
In 37 previous Tests at Lahore, the team batting first has won just three, compared to 14 by the team batting second. If West Indies don't pick up their act over the next few days, they could well be the latest team to succumb after batting first.