West Indian batsmen defy Pakistan

The main landmark the West Indies needed to reach on day three was to score 293 and avoid the follow on. With light fading on the Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium, they did just that, despite losing five wickets on the day to end on 325/5. It was a day for cameos, with three of the West Indian top five scoring attractive half centuries. Chris Gayle (68) stood tall and imperious, Wavell Hinds (59) was flambouyant and the man described as batting's Miss World - Carl Hooper (56) was elegant as ever. Ryan Hinds batting at number seven on debut compiled a tidy unbeaten 53 and looks good for more.

After starting their innings in strident fashion on the second day West Indies were mesmerised by Pakistan's spinners early on the third day, losing three wickets and adding 76 runs to reach 130/3 at lunch.

Saqlain Mushtaq is the kind of bowler you have to back to take wickets when there is a big score on the board behind him. With every kind of variation available to an offie at his disposal, Saqlain is more than a handful. And the West Indies are also not the greatest players of spin bowling the world has seen in recent times.

The dour Darren Ganga was the first to go, being trapped in front of the stumps by an off-break that sneaked past the bat. Having faced 94 balls for a 20 that did not include a single boundary, Ganga gave way to Sherwin Campbell.

Chris Gayle, who mixed aggression with caution in the most sensible manner possible, was the mainstay of the reply. The elegant left-hander defended well at most times, picking just the right balls to drive. When he did go for a drive, it was with his foot right up to the pitch of the ball and with a full free flow of the bat. After crisply notching up 13 hits to the fence, Gayle (68, 117 balls) made his first mistake and paid the ultimate price. A perfectly tossed up top-spinner from Saqlain, one that came in to the left-hander, sneaked between bat and pad and clipped the stumps.

Sherwin Campbell has a habit of giving the ball a mighty belt while in the Caribbean and completely locking up when on tour. The right-hander looked in all manner of trouble at the wicket against the spin of Saqlain and Danish Kaneria before umpire George Sharp put him out of his misery. Shouldering arms to a Kaneria googly, Campbell (6) was adjudged lbw to a ball that looked like it had enough on it to clear the stumps.

Wavell Hinds then took over the proceedings, driving very well with characteristic short arm jabs and a quick bat action. The left hander warmed to the spinners, using his feet well to them. With the ball not quite coming onto the bat, flight became a key weapon and Hinds did well to keep the spinners at bay. In a repeat of Gayle's performance however, Hinds fell just when he looked good, against the grain of play, as he stepped out to Kaneria and missed one. Latif had the bails off in a flash and Hinds' innings of 59 (83 balls, 10 fours, 1 six) had come to an end.

The departure of Hinds brought the Guyanese pair of Carl Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul together. The pair, probably the best players of spin in the West Indian team, chipped away at the bowling, inching towards the follow on mark with every passing over. Spreading the field around with some chips over the infield, Hooper was especially good when he played straight back down the ground.

Chanderpaul (45 not out) for his part played the horizontal shots with good effect, sweeping more than once and getting the spinners to change their line and length. With the Pakistani mediumpacers striving for a bit of reverse swing just as the tea interval approached, Hooper tightened up his defence but could not keep out a late indipper from Abdur Razzaq. In what would have been the last over before the tea break, Hooper played back to a ball from Razzaq that did not bounce as much as he expected and was trapped plumb in front. Hooper 56 (103balls, 8 fours) became the third West Indian batsman to score an attractive half-century who failed to go on to make a bigger score.

Chanderpaul then shepherded debutant Ryan Hinds perfectly, easing the twenty-year old into the big league. For his part, Ryan Hinds was industrious, working the ball into the gaps with ease. Showing great composure, the southpaw notched up a half century on debut, something he would dearly like to build on when play resumes on day four.