In the last session of the second and final Test at Sabina Park on Tuesday, Shaheen Shah Afridi finished with a ten-wicket match haul to bowl Pakistan to a series-leveling 109-run win against the West Indies.
Shaheen kept Pakistan’s hopes alive with a devastating first innings effort of six for 51 on day four – his greatest Test innings performance – and returned on the final day to deliver vital blows, despite losing a full day’s play and another session to rain and a sodden outfield over the weekend.
When it seemed that the weather might derail their frantic bid for victory, he returned for a final session with the second new ball, taking the final two wickets and giving his side a fantastic win with an hour to spare.
Starting the day at 49 for one and facing an improbable goal of 329, the West Indies’ top-order batting once again let them down, falling to 113 for six by mid-afternoon despite skipper Kraigg Brathwaite’s valiant 39.
Former captain Jason Holder ultimately top-scored with 47, but it was his dismissal by Nauman Ali, the left-arm spinner’s third wicket, that calmed Pakistan’s nerves. Then, with a new ball in hand and eight wickets on the board, Afridi trapped Kemar Roach leg-before.
After that, Afridi forced a mistimed drive from Joshua da Silva, which Faheem Ashraf caught at mid-on to dismiss the West Indies for 219 and clinch yet another comeback attempt for Pakistan in the Caribbean.
Pakistan, led by Babar Azam, lost the first Test but came back to win the second to split the series with the hosts, like they did in 2005 and 2011.
“This was a very important win for us, especially given the way we lost that first Test,” said Babar, reflecting on the heart-breaking one-wicket defeat at the same venue nine days earlier.
“My partnership with Fawad Alam and his brilliant century was of course valuable, but I have to give massive credit to the bowling of Shaheen because he make things a lot easier for us.”
Great team effort
Shaheen’s four for 43 in the second innings gave him a match total of 10 for 94, and with a series-leading record of 18 wickets at an average of 11.28 in the two matches, it seemed inevitable that the 21-year-old would be named Man of the Match and Man of the Series.
“It was a great effort, a team effort. This is what the team needed and I am just happy that I was able to deliver,” said the left-arm pacer.
“It was really tough out there, extremely hot and even though we were picking up wickets along the way we really had to work very hard and credit must go to the entire bowling unit.”
Within the opening half-hour of the day, Shaheen got the ball rolling for Pakistan by removing nightwatchman Alzarri Joseph with an aggressive top-edged hook that was caught by wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan. He then reappeared in the middle of the day, just as a rain was about to wash over the field, to break Kyle Mayers and Holder’s tenacious seventh-wicket stand.
Mayers’ dismissal came as a huge relief to Pakistan, since he had been dropped at short-leg by Abid Ali off Nauman just a few overs before.
In the morning session, Abid was again severely at fault when he missed Brathwaite at a slip off Faheem.
The West Indies skipper, who was on 25 at the time, made it to 39 before succumbing soon after noon when a top-edged cut from Nauman found a grateful Fawad Alam at backward-point.
“Consistency is what we need. I just think it is a mindset because Test cricket is never wasy and all the guys technically can bat,” said Brathwaite when it was all over in attempting to pinpoint the cause of his team’s repeated batting failures.
“We have to find ways to build innings, to cope with the first 30 balls and get through those tough periods.”
Shaheen had set the tone for the day by taking the first wicket, and his colleagues quickly followed suit.
Hasan Ali quickly caught Nkrumah Bonner leg-before, and after Abid’s odd miss, Imran Butt’s opening partner Imran Butt cemented his reputation as Pakistan’s safest pair of hands by hanging on to Roston Chase’s edged drive off Hasan diving to his right at second slip.
After the West Indies began at 49 for one, Jermaine Blackwood seemed capable of reaching the lunch break with Brathwaite, but Nauman dismissed him for 25 through another wicketkeeper’s catch, the fourth wicket of the morning.