A comfortable 199-run win in the third and final Test at Karachi allowed Pakistan to wrap up a fourth series win out of five in the last 12 months. Given the turbulence of the last three months, it will matter little that it came against an improving West Indies side that still struggles away from home: a win, and a comprehensive one ultimately, was needed.
At the heart of the triumph was Mohammad Yousuf, multiple record-breaker and serial run-accumulator. With four hundreds and 665 runs from the series, Yousuf's batting was critical for Pakistan, especially with Inzamam-ul-Haq and Younis Khan not in particularly prolific mood. But Inzamam, in commendable socialist spirit, was keen to spread the plaudits.
"Mohammad Yousuf was exceptional throughout the series and he rightly is being praised by everyone for doing so well. But I also want to point out that the entire team should get credit for the victory. There is always a lot of pressure in a home series especially after we didn't play well in England so this was a good win," Inzamam told reporters after the day's play.
First among equals was Umar Gul, who ended the series with 16 wickets. Three of those were the especially crucial ones of Brian Lara, and most times Pakistan needed a wicket, Gul delivered. Denied the services of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif, Gul's continued progress could not have been better timed for Pakistan.
"Gul really bowled superbly for us," admitted Inzamam. "To get 16 wickets on such tracks is a major achievement especially considering that we were without our main bowlers. He was also well supported by Shahid Nazir and Danish Kaneria too."
In a series replete with records, one achievement stands out. Pakistan went through the entire series with an unchanged playing XI for only the second time in their 54-year history, the first being the 1964-65 home series against New Zealand. Not that there weren't any calls for change. Before the final Test, calls for another specialist in place of an allrounder had been aired but Inzamam held firm in the name of stability.
"You can't play with four fast bowlers on such low and slow wickets. You need one bowler who can also contribute with the bat. And anyway there has been enough criticism heaped on me in the past for changing the team all the time."
Changing the side in each of the three Tests didn't help his counterpart Lara. Though this defeat was the West Indies's 17th in the last 25 Tests away from home, Lara insisted some positives could be drawn.
"Pakistan is a tough place to play cricket and playing a Test series could only be a positive and improve us. A couple of younger players came out of this series well, including Denesh Ramdin and Jerome Taylor. We have still some young players coming out like Ramdin. We are not down in the dumps about it.
"Of course it's disappointing to lose a series, but you have to give credit toward the end to the Pakistanis for playing tough cricket throughout. I'm still proud of my team, they worked very hard after the Lahore Test match and played pretty good cricket in Multan."
The good cricket would have paid more dividends had catches been taken. Mohammad Yousuf was dropped six times through the series and in total, at least a dozen were spilled. "Yeah, we dropped a few important but we still managed to play some tough cricket. At the end of the day, our performances in Tests still need to be improved."
With the ODI series due to begin from December 5, fortunes may swiftly turn around. West Indies have been a much-improved limited-overs side under Lara's captaincy, and the focus, said Lara, will switch seamlessly to the longer-term now.
"In the one-day arena, we have played some very good cricket in the last two to three months, reaching the finals of the DLF Cup and the Champions Trophy. Our main focus is now to the final at Barbados in the World Cup. Ramnaresh Sarwan will be missed in the series but we have some good players coming in."