The West Indies Cricket team took a 1-0 lead in the two-test series against Pakistan yesterday. It was their first victory in this format of the game in over two years, a shocking statistic for a team that once ruled the world of Cricket for 15 years.
While the crowds were generally poor to low in Guyana, the spirits must have been lifted throughout the Caribbean, as it's been a long time since West Indian fans have had anything cricket-related to cheer about.
After a steady diet of ODI's and 20/20 cricket, it was refreshing to see the boys back in white clothing. Test Cricket will always remain the yardstick by which great teams and great players are measured.
While this wasn't a match of the highest quality, pitting two teams trying to make it to the middle-of-the-pack, it provided all the excitement, drama, and tension that would keep even the school children interested.
In a match in which neither team could sustain any momentum, the West Indies finally seized control late on the third day with Ravi Rampaul providing the early breakthroughs. Bowling better than he ever has, and currently fitter than he has been since his under-19 days, Rampaul bowled with good pace, movement both ways, and a tight line on the perfect length.
Kemar Roach chipped in with one wicket, to add to Ramapul's two, and immediately had Pakistan reeling at 6/3. The score should've been 6/4 but Darren Bravo grassed a sitter at third slip when Rampaul broke the edge of Asad Shafiq.
Pakistan fought gamely as they battled the spin of Devendra Bishoo, saw off Rampaul and Roach, and blunted Captain Darren Sammy's best efforts. Shafiq ended the day's play on 40 not out, while he was ably assisted by captain Misbah Ul-Haq's knock of 34.
Pakistan were 80/3 after the third days play, a fine fightback, but the West Indies still maintained the upper hand.
Pakistan only added three runs at the start of the fourth days play before Rampaul struck yet another early blow, removing Shafiq (42), as the Pakistani's limped towards the target of 219 runs.
Umar Akmal walked out to join his captain in the middle, and this provided Pakistan their best opportunity to gain some sort of momentum as their two best batsmen in the current lineup were at the crease.
Misbah and Umar batted beautifully, taking few risks, but capitalizing on any loose deliveries. Neither batsman hesitated to use his feet against the spin of Bishoo. Both played with control, but managed to keep the score ticking, and avoided being stifled by the West Indian bowlers on a pitch that at the bare minimum could be described as "bowler friendly."
With the score on 135/4, victory only 84 runs away, and both Umar and Misbah batting with great skill, patience and ease, Captain Darren Sammy produced a delivery that trapped Misbah on the knee roll without the batsman getting much of a stride forward, and dismissing him for a well played 52.
Two balls later, with the score unchanged, Sammy had Pakistan reeling as he dismissed Mohammed Salman for a duck and sent the visiting team spiraling to 135/6.
Abdur Rehman was perhaps the last glimmer of hope for Pakistan—he batted well in the first innings with a top score of 40 not out, and exhibited the type of patience and discipline required to score runs on a pitch of such an unpredictable nature.
Rehman, six from 30 deliveries, did his best once again in the second innings, but with the score on 160, he drove at one from Rampaul which swung away from the bat and was neatly taken at second slip by Devon Smith.
Umar Akmal still remained at the crease, but the writing was on the wall and Sammy didn't waste any time claiming the last three wickets, one of which was Umar Akmal himself.
Sammy ended with figures of 5 for 29, and his fourth five-wicket haul in just his 12th Test match. Pakistan crumbled from a score of 135/4, a position which perhaps swung the pendulum in their favour, to 178 all out, losing their last six wickets for a paltry 43 runs.
Credit must go to a few players on both sides. First, for Pakistan, Abdur Rehman took 2 for 51 from 29 overs as he helped restrict the West Indies to a first innings total of 226.
Then, Rehman contributed a vital 40 not out, as he top scored in Pakistan's first innings reply of 160 all out. Umar Akmal scored 33 and 47 in the match, making him the leading run scorer after the first Test.
The top performer for Pakistan, and a man who almost single-handedly spun them to victory, was Saeed Ajmal. Ajmal could certainly feel hard-done for not claiming the Man of the Match award as he spun a web around the West Indian batsmen in both innings, finishing with career best match figures of 11/111, from 56.5 riveting, captivating overs of spin bowling.
For the West Indies, credit must start at the top with Lendl Simmons scoring 49 and 21, and once again it must be reiterated that this was a minefield of a pitch to bat on. Shivnarine Chanderpaul scored 27 and 36 not out, the latter proving to be a match-winning knock of sorts.
Man of the Match Darren Sammy, his captaincy and leadership was cause for optimism, he did a good job with his bowlers, especially given the fact he was at least one or two bowlers short.
Of course Sammy's most important contribution was his seven wickets for the match, as he made timely and crucial strikes in Pakistan's second innings.
Ravindranath Rampaul, easily the best fast bowler on display, seven wickets to his name in the match. He bowled beautifully, hitting all the right areas on the pitch.
Pace, aggression, movement, consistent line and length and good lift and carry through to the keeper, Ravi was at his best in this match, providing West Indian fans with encouraging signs.
Last, but not least, perhaps the most impressive, Devendra Bishoo, the little leg spinner from Guyana making his debut on his home soil. While Bishoo went wicket-less in the second innings, his crafty, clever and disciplined bowling which yielded figures of four for 68 in the first innings, is what gave the West Indians the early advantage.
Bishoo bowled with guile not expected of someone making their debut. Big spinning leg breaks, to those that spun less, the straighter deliveries, the quicker slider and the well flighted deliveries, he had all of the Pakistani batsmen guessing in the first innings.
Just as important as his four wickets were Bishoo's knocks of 15 not out and 24. His ninth wicket partnership of 48, in tandem with Shivnarine Chanderpaul in the second innings, proved to be decisive in the outcome, as the West Indies won by only 40 runs.
Congratulation to the West Indies Cricket team on a much needed victory, and here's to another gripping, fascinating contest on Friday as these two teams will lock horns again in Basseterre, St. Kitts for the conclusion of the Test series.