SHARJAH-Relentless in their pursuit of another win to secure the second successive whitewash against the West Indies at home, Pakistan didn't really have to over-exert themselves to march off with an emphatic 244-run triumph, and in four days to boot.
Desperately seeking to improve their ranking, this series win would definitely help them not only in moving up the ladder but also add to the morale for the tougher challenges in the months to come. More than the victory over a hapless West Indies, a mere shadow of their glorious past, the most remarkable thing about this Pakistan team is the hunger, intensity and consistency.
It was their sixth Test win on the trot, and also the sixth time that they scored well over 400 runs in the first innings of a match. Signs that this Pakistan team is getting its act together.
Skipper Waqar Younis has reason to be proud of this winning streak; he indeed has led from the front and this shows, grabbing 4 for 44 to hasten the Windies demise. With a wicket at the top of the order which could easily have been two had the normally safe Shahid Afridi not floored a catch at third slip, he came back to mop up the tail, getting the last two wickets in the first over of the half-hour extension he had requested. Before that he broke the rather effervescent 47 run stand for the sixth wicket between an enterprising Ryan Hinds (topscorer with 46, 55 deliveries, 7 fours) and an adventurous Ridley Jacobs by removing Hinds, leg before for his 350th wicket. It is the third best aggregate by a Pakistani, behind only Wasim Akram (414) and Imran Khan (362).
Another indicator that things are moving in the right direction for Pakistan was the fact that three relatively junior members of the side walked away with Man of the Match and Man of the Series Awards in the two test series, Shoaib Akhtar, Younis Khan and Abdur Razzaq respectively.
Waqar's decision to bat again when he could have enforced the follow-on had perplexed many. With the wisdom of hindsight, one can safely say that he didn't need to put his batsmen back in to make the effort of putting 225 for 5. The West Indies were blasted off for 189, again failing to reach 200 in the second innings to hurry up to their fifth consecutive defeat.
The day didn't start all that badly for the West Indies, as they had three Pakistani wickets down and restricted them to only 74 in the first session. But it only got worse after that.
Dillon struck twice in two overs to account for Younis Khan, holing out to mid-off with Darren Ganga bringing off a good catch for the West Indies finally, and Taufeeq Umar was given out after an extended appeal by the bowler that seemingly made umpire Shakeel Khan change his mind and raise the finger. The replays showed that the umpire's change in verdict - on a delivery that landed marginally outside leg and was headed outside off - was another of several mistakes made by umpires in this series. There was more to come.
An out of sorts Inzamam hung in there before perishing to an airy-fairy shot, and Pakistan declared soon after lunch, once Youhana got his 50. There was nothing sporting about the declaration, for in their present form the West Indies had as little a chance of surviving the remaining five sessions as a snowball in Sharjah.
On a pitch that again didn't have much to offer the bowlers by way of support, the Pakistani attack showed its class. Waqar had Chris Gayle plumb in front, and almost had Wavell Hinds who prospered to 34 before he was smartly snapped up by stand-in 'keeper Taufeeq off Saqlain Mushtaq. In between, Shoaib Akhtar had struck another blow, getting an ever-improving Darren Ganga, amazingly Darrel Hair ruling in the bowler's favour when the direction was certainly down the leg side.
Carl Hooper, whose defiant 84 in the first innings had taken the West Indies to the verge of avoiding the follow-on, fell leg before to Saqlain, another marginal decision. Razzaq accounted for Chanderpaul, and it seemed all over. But Hinds and Jacobs took the fight to the Pakistani bowlers, especially Hinds driving beautifully both to Waqar and Razzaq. But once Waqar sent Hinds back, it was all over bar the shouting. Ridley Jacobs remained not out for 35, but Waqar had once again blown the tail away.
The West Indies definitely have to do a lot of soul-searching to survive the Pakistani onslaught in the one-dayers too, but that is a different ball game altogether, and the Pakistanis are known to give in to complacency. The other key area that the West Indies and Pakistan both need to look at is fielding and holding their catches. If indeed, the West Indies had held many of the catches dropped, this series may not have been so one-sided.
Hooper and his young team, so far without much hope, must surely be hoping for better fortune in the 3 ODIs to follow.