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Pakistan in an impregnable position

SHARJAH - Waqar Younis must be a very satisfied man. At stumps on the third day, he had his sights firmly set on a sixth successive Test victory. With plenty of time left in this Test match, to be exact, six sessions, and the hosts already 338 runs ahead with nine wickets standing, it would take a very brave man to put a wager on the West Indies not losing their 23rd match in 27 overseas outings.

Having restricted the Caribbeans to 264, nine runs shy of the follow-on target despite skipper Carl Hooper's heroics, Waqar didn't ask the visitors to bat again. One is not sure whether he didn't want to overwork his bowlers or maybe he desired that the West Indies batted last, on even further deteriorated turf.

Shahid Afridi offered a chance almost straightaway, on the third ball of the innings, and, unlike the first innings, this time he didn't get a reprieve, Ridley Jacobs pouching the snick off a Merv Dillon delivery. Afridi went back for a duck, but that minor hiccup apart, the Pakistan batting took the match decisively away from the 'tourists'.

After a slightly tentative start, Taufeeq Umar, intent on making amends for his failures in this series, and Younis Khan, trying to make the most of a rich vein of form, put on 130 runs for the second wicket. Both treated the short and loose stuff appropriately, and by the close, both had hit good half-centuries, with Younis looking well set to make it a hundred in each innings.

If anything, Taufeeq and Younis proved that there were no demons in the wicket, and the contrast in the fortunes of the two teams had more to do with the calibre of the Pakistan attack, not to mention the grit and resolve of the Caribbean batting.

The post-lunch session saw the West Indies tumble out of the game, with captain Carl Hooper alone defying the fire and venom of the Pakistan attack. Hooper remained undefeated, but his 84, a gem of an innings in the circumstances, failed to save the potential follow-on. But it didn't matter in the end, for Waqar Younis didn't enforce it, and going past that particular target may not have made life any the less miserable for the West Indian captain.

With Shoaib and Waqar bowling in tandem, Hooper and Dillon found the going tough. Shoaib struck soon, with Dillon edging a good length delivery to Taufeeq at gully, who made no mistake with the low chance. Ryan Hinds looked better than his 11 runs, and when Razzaq relieved Waqar from the attack, Hinds drove him for four but was out, ostensibly plumb in front; umpire Darrell Hair raised the finger, but replays showed that the ball had landed outside leg stump.

Jacobs (31) joined Hooper in the middle and the two took the fight to Pakistan in an enterprising stand of 47, before the former succumbed to the wiles of Saqlain Mushtaq, his variation, a 'doosra' (the one that goes the other way), pitched on the leg stump beating the sweep to rattle the stumps. The 237 for 7 was quickly 237 for 8 as Shoaib clean bowled an out of sorts Ramnarine. A remarkable display of reverse-swing bowling earned Akhtar his fourth wicket, uprooting Cameron Cuffy's off-stump with a ball that swung in sharply from nearly a yard outside.

Hooper fought on bravely, farming the bowling and attempting some big shots off every bowler, in the process accumulating his 5,000th Test run, the ninth Windian batsman to achieve that distinction, and remained unconquered till the end, but it was not enough, for Pedro Collins was dismissed by Saqlain Mushtaq with the West Indies still 9 runs adrift.

Sadly, for the umpteenth time, the West Indies tail had folded without putting up a fight.