By Sean Devers
On a low and slow track expected to favour spin, the West Indies began the first Digicel Test yesterday at the Providence Stadium with just one spinner in debutant Davendra Bishoo, while Pakistan picked three in their starting eleven.
By the time play ended with the floodlights turned on, the Pakistan spinners had taken eight wickets between them as the hosts struggled to 209-9 as only Lendl Simmons (49) and Shiv Chanderpaul (27) passing 25 in another disappointing performance for the West Indies, who elected to bat in sweltering heat.
Marlon Samuels and Fidel Edwards were left on the bench even as opener Devon Smith, who struggled badly against off-spinner Mohammed Hafeez in the three ODI’s before being dropped for the last two in the ODI series, was re-called for the Test.
Not surprisingly, Pakistan opened the bowling with Hafeez who soon rattled the stumps of Smith (13) as the left-hander pushed uncertainly forward to leave the West Indies, without a Test win in 17 games since they beat England in 2009, on the ropes at 15-1.
Simmons and fellow T&T batsman Darren Bravo, both in only their fourth Test, as they did in the ODI series, looked good.
By Lunch the pair had taken their team to 66-1 with Simmons (the nephew of former Test player Phil Simmons) and Bravo ( the cousin of former Test great Brian Lara) entertaining the small by vocal crowd, with responsible batting against high-class spin bowling from off-spinner Saeed Ajmal who took 4-63.
A glorious cut for four by Bravo and an exquisite cover drive by Simmons in successive overs from Ajmal brought the working day crowd to life before Bravo, with fifties in each of his three previous Tests,
was leg before to left-arm pacer Wahab Riaz for 25 at 71-2.
Simmons was forced to retire hurt on 41 at 81-2 when he was struck on his knee by Riaz on a bruised area of his foot which was hit a couple of times in the ODI series.
The Guyanese pair of Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan took the score to 127 before Sarwan, who scored two half-centuries against Sri Lanka in the only previous Test match at Providence, was caught behind for 23 off left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman just before Tea.
By the break the 36-year-old Chanderpaul was again showing defiance on 20, Nash was on four and the West Indies 131-3.
After the interval Nash was dropped under the bat off the probing Ajmal who bowled the left-hander and the West Indies were 136-4. Carlton Baugh (4) then wasted a review when he was struck plumb in front by Ajmal as the home team slumped to 142-5.
St Lucian Darren Sammy, under tremendous pressure to lift his game since his elevation to West Indies Captain, arrived with his team desperately in need of a revival and the vastly experienced Chanderpaul needing support.
Sammy, who has scored just 10 runs in his three Tests as Captain got going with a flicked boundary and then lifted Rehman for six over mid-wicket before an irresponsible swipe at the ball after his six, flew high to mid-on to end his innings for 12 and push the West Indies into further trouble at 159-6.
Chanderpaul, only behind Lara with Test runs among West Indians played a glorious back-foot punch off Umar Gul before he was bowled by Ajmal who befuddled the batsmen with an assortment of off-breaks, sliders and Doosras to leave the West Indies, who has lost just four of the 12 Tests against Pakistan in the Caribbean, on 162-7. Simmons returned with Bravo as his runner but soon fell to Ajmal one away from his maiden Test fifty after hitting three fours and a six from 130 balls to leave his team on 175-8.
Ravi Rampaul (14) and Roach added valuable lower-order runs before Hafeez, returned for a second spell and trapped Rampaul leg before at 198-9.
Davendra Bishoo, the 45th Guyana player to play Test cricket, got going with a sweetly timed on-driven boundary and was not out on 10 by the close with Kemar Roach on 16 as the West Indies tail wagged in fading light. The lights were turned on for the first time in a Test match at Providence as Hafeez (2-22) and Rehman (2-46) supported Ajmal who already has 37 wickets in his 10 Tests. Today is the second day and the West Indies will hope to prolong their innings and extend their score and then utilise a pitch that is already keeping low.
The problem is that with only two pacers in Roach and Rampaul backed up by Sammy’s gentle medium pace and Bishoo’s leg-spin the home team might not have enough fire-power to limit the visitors to a small total, especially since Simmons, who, along with Nash could offer bowling support, might not be able to bowl.
West Indies 1st Innings
D. Smith b Hafeez 13
L. Simmons lbw Ajmal 49
D. Bravo lbw Riaz 25
R. Sarwan c Salman b Rehman 23
S. Chanderpaul b Ajmal 27
B. Nash lbw Ajmal 05
C. Baugh lbw Ajmal 04
D. Sammy c Akmal b Rehman 12
K. Roach not out 16
R. Rampaul lbw 14
D. Bishoo not out 10
Extras (8 lb, 1 w, 2 nb,) 11
Total: (for 9 wickets off 90 overs) 209
Fall of wickets: 1-15, 2-71, 3-127, 4-136,
5-142, 6-159, 7-162, 8-175, 9-198, 10-
Bowling: Gul 13-0-40-0, Hafeez 13-5-22-2,
Rehman 26-9-46-2, Ajmal 29-12-63-4,
Riaz 9-1-30-1 (2nb, 1w)
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