Good Windies win but still cause for concern, says PerryWednesday, August 18, 2021
BY SANJAY MYERS
West Indies battled bravely and with loads of determination to escape with a one-wicket win against Pakistan in the opening Test which ended at Sabina Park on Sunday.
But while the last-gasp victory was one to savour for the hosts and a rousing advert for Test cricket, the manner in which their batting deficiencies were exposed — albeit on a seamer-friendly surface — is an unsettling drawback for Caribbean cricket fans.
After securing a 36-run, first-innings advantage and later requiring 168 runs to take a one-nil lead in the two-Test series, West Indies buckled and stuttered the entire way before getting over the line with nine wickets down late on the fourth day.
“The objective of a game is to win, and that objective was met by the Windies, so it must feel good to win. But there has to be concern about how our batting [performed],” former West Indies spinner Nehemiah Perry told the Jamaica Observer after the nail-biting contest which saw both sides flooring chances at pivotal moments.
Giving the example of India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara facing 206 balls to make 45 against home team England in a corresponding Test match at Lord's in London, Perry said both the West Indies and Pakistan batting mostly failed to “show guts and fight and technique” over the course of the match in Kingston.
He added: “The pitch had some movements, but when you go to England the ball moves around too. I think it was a good wicket to bat on. If you go out there and stand up, leave the ball well and show good technique and judgement you can score runs. The game finished inside four days with a whole day [left]. There was rain [that interrupted play] as well…so people are still not standing up and batting for long periods.”
West Indies had won the toss and sent the visitors to take first strike on a lush-green batting strip.
Pacers Jason Holder and 19-year-old Jayden Seales, who went on to claim the player of the match award, took three wickets each, as Pakistan were dismissed for 217. Left-hander Fawad Alam top-scored with 56.
Riding on the back of outstanding batting from skipper Kraigg Brathwaite (97) and Holder (58), who shared in a 96-run stand for the sixth wicket, West Indies managed 253. Left-arm swing bowler Shaheen Afridi grabbed 4-59.
Batting a second time, Pakistan were 168-5 before slumping to 203 all out. Captain Babar Azam led his team with 55, but the hugely talented Trinidadian Seales, playing only his third Test, took 5-55 to end with match figures of 8-125.
In the run chase, the Caribbean side lost Kieran Powell (four), Brathwaite (two) and Nkrumah Bonner (five) to be floundering on 16-3 before Jermaine Blackwood (55) and Roston Chase (22) combined in a fourth-wicket partnership worth 68 runs.
A customary collapse ensued, and by the time Blackwood was dismissed at 111-6 and Holder (16) at 114-7, a Pakistan victory seemed the likelier result.
But the hosts' lower order — guided by Kemar Roach's unbeaten 30 and aided by sloppy Pakistan catching — offered dogged resistance. Roach, fittingly the scorer of the winning runs, and last man Seales, who made two not out, added an invaluable 17 to secure the win.
Perry identified the West Indies top order, which also faltered badly in the emphatic 0-2 loss to South Africa earlier in the summer, as the weakest link.
“Kieran Powell looks out of sorts and doesn't look like a Test opener. There is concern with Bonner — he scored a hundred [against Sri Lanka earlier this year], but in recent times he has been disappointing and he needs to come good. Then we have Kyle Mayers who had double ducks here, and he didn't do much in the previous series. He bowls so that should keep him in the team, but there is concern there,” Perry told the Observer.
“The Pakistan strength was also their bowling. I think Pakistan and West Indies are in the same ball park in terms of quality, so it's a fair result. West Indies showed some grit at the end to win by one wicket. It was a good game and good for cricket in terms of the excitement. There was good fast bowling with people getting swing and movement and bowling with good pace,” the Jamaican said.
The final match of the series is set to start on Friday at Sabina Park.