By Sean Devers In St Kitts
In association with Digicel, Leisure Inn & Queensway
Younis Khan is the only Pakistani to have scored a Test century in the last year but if Taufeeq Umar fails to join him today at Warner Park he would be a very disappointed man.
The 29-year-old was dropped at slip in successive overs off Kemar Roach before he had reached 10 and again off Skipper Darren Sammy on 94 and by the time play on the third day of the final Test in this series ended yesterday, was three away from his fifth Test hundred.
After dismissing the West Indies for 223 to take a 49-run first innings lead, Pakistan put them selves in a commanding position to win this match and draw the series by reaching 202-3 in their second innings. They enjoy a lead of 251 with seven wickets and six sessions remaining.
Umar who struck 10 fours and faced 231 balls, featured in half century partnerships with Mohammed Hafeez (32) and Azhar Ali (53) as Pakistan capitalized on sloppy West Indies catching on a pitch still good for batting but offering increasing assistance for the spinners.
Off-spinner Saeed Ajmal took his wicket tally in the series to 14 scalps with 3-56 while Hafeez (3-23) and Abdur Rehman (2-55) supported well although Ravi Rampaul (32*) and Roach (29) put together 60 for the ninth wicket to ensure the home team passed 200 after beginning the day on 184-8.
West Indies resumed in gorgeous weather and Rampaul and Roach batted with the type of level-headedness missing in the top order as they defied Pakistan for four minutes short of an hour. The pair played each ball on merit and a spanking cover-driven boundary by Roach off pacer Wahab Riaz brought the fair size crowd to life.
Hafeez broke the partnership when Roach, who faced 103 balls and hit three fours and a six in his 29, was leg before at 218-9.
Davendra Bishoo (1) was soon removed by Ajmal, leaving Rampaul unbeaten on 32 from 77 balls with two fours as West Indies scored 39 runs from 20.5 overs and 75 minutes yesterday morning.
When Pakistan began their reply Roach, in his best spell of the series so far, had Hafeez caught behind off a no-ball before he had scored and had Umar dropped at first slip by Darren Bravo and by Marlon Samuels at second, in successive overs.
Umar drove Roach confidently down the ground for three fours and smashed him square for another boundary in two successive overs and already the spilled chances were beginning to prove costly.
Sammy replaced Roach and was greeted with a sumptuous cover driven boundary by Umar who then stroked Rampaul for another delightful straight boundary to bring up his team’s fifty in just 13 overs.
By Lunch Pakistan had increased their lead to 104 by reaching 55-0 with Umar on 39 and Hafeez on 15.
After the interval Hafeez (32) was bowled by Sammy at 82-1 but Umar, who reached his 12th Test fifty and Azhar Ali, pushed Pakistan further in front in the contest with entertaining batting on the small and very fast outfield.
The pair took Pakistan with just five wins and 16 losses in their last 31 Tests, to 131-1 by Tea. Ali, who used the ploy of advancing down the track to Sammy’s medium pace, was unbeaten on 33, while Umar was 65 and the Pakistan lead 180.
After Tea Brendon Nash’s part-time left-arm spin was used in tandem with Bishoo and the Pakistan batsmen were put under very little pressure although Bishoo got a few deliveries to bounce and spin past the edge of the right-handed Ali.
The thin four-man bowling attack was again exposed as the widely spread out field allowed the batsmen to pick up easy singles as the lead increased.
Ali, also favouring the paddle sweep off Bishoo, reached his eighth Test half-century before Bishoo struck when Ali edged a cut to slip 27 minutes into the final session to leave the score on 158-2 and finally end the 86-run partnership. Ali’s 53 was decorated with six fours.
Asad Shafik joined Umar and the pair carried the score to 167 before Shafik (4) was caught behind off Roach, who bowled with pace and control.
The experienced Misbah Ul Haq started quietly before exploding with a massive six off Bishoo while Umar’s concentration seemed to waver as he got into the 80s and he was lucky to escape a good, diving effort by Lendl Simmons at mid-off as he drove at Sammy in the closing stages of the day’s proceedings.
Luck continued to go his way when a very confident caught behind appeal off Sammy off the day’s final ball was turned down and while his first task today will be to get to three figures, he and his Skipper (13*) will want to push the lead to over 300 by lunch to set up a declaration.
The West Indies will have other ideas as they try to preserve a series-win with at least a draw. But if the rain (which is forecast for St Kitts) stay away, a victory well inside the five days, is the most likely result with Pakistan in the driver’s seat.
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