Sarfraz brings Pakistan’s innings to life

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Lunch Pakistan 322 for 5 (Sarfraz 53*, Misbah 47*) lead by West Indies 286 by 36 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Sarfraz Ahmed scored a brisk fifty to help put Pakistan into the lead © AFP

It was cautious, streaky and unconvincing, but when did that ever reflect on a scorecard? In the morning session the Pakistan batsmen looked wobbly, especially in the first hour, but managed to take the lead, largely thanks to a proactive innings from Sarfraz Ahmed, for the loss of only one further wicket and took the most significant steps to batting West Indies out of the game.

After the third day ended with the Test so tantalisingly poised, the importance of the first hour was self-evident. It turned out to be a phase the West Indies were fully up for, and despite an unresponsive new ball, Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph extracted sharp bounce off the surface, clearly discomfiting both Asad Shafiq and Misbah-ul-Haq.

Neither looked confident in dealing with the shorter length, and both had catches dropped. Shafiq was evidently on his heels when Joseph pitched one on a fuller length, and looked to drive it despite being out of position. It caught the edge and flew wide of a diving second slip. Just three balls later, Misbah was unable to keep a short delivery from Gabriel down, but short leg, probably standing a touch too deep, was unable to hold on while diving forwards.

But just as it began to look like yet another promising session the West Indies would have nothing to show for, Gabriel hit the deck hard yet again, pushing Shafiq back. He poked tamely at the ball the outside edge carrying to the keeper at chest height. It wasn’t a moment too soon, and it was nothing less than Gabriel deserved.

Sarfraz arrival brought a sense of urgency to an innings that had stalled somewhat ever since Babar Azam and Younis Khan’s twin dismissals they previous evening. He took away the fast bowlers’ comfort zones by periodically walking down the pitch and forcing them to adjust their lengths, punishing them when they failed to do so.

He was even more severe on Devendra Bishoo, striking a four and six off his first two overs, and picking off the loose deliveries to ensure the spinner could never get into his rhythm and start building pressure on the batsmen as Pakistan edged closer to West Indies’ total. His strike rate of 138 against the legspinner was indicative of his intentions, and he scored a half-century and brought up 2,000 runs before lunch.

Misbah, meanwhile, ticked along at the other end, looking curiously reticent to even attempt scoring shots at a juncture of the game when his side could be expected to drive home their advantage, having batted their way out through a testing phase and emerging on the other side relatively unscathed. Even his favourite shot, the slog over long-on against the spinner, almost went wrong as it flew straight up over mid-off but the fielder couldn’t back-track in time.

West Indies’ fielding continued to let them down, with wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich missing a fairly routine stumping chance that would have brought about Sarfraz’s dismissal in the last over before lunch. As if to emphasise the point that the session had gone Pakistan’s way, Misbah finally rose from his stupor on the last ball, smashing Roston Chase for six. It was the skipper’s trademark shot, in a session where Pakistan’s advantage was perhaps decisively rubberstamped on the Test.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000

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