Dominica bid farewell to two legends of the game in a most fitting manner, giving Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq the most heart-stopping send-off possible.
History beckoned time and again, torturing and teasing them. It made them wait, it made them wonder, it made them despair. But, with six balls left in the game, the series, and their careers, came perhaps its most satisfying moment.
Shannon Gabriel, West Indies’ No. 11, had spent just over half an hour at the crease, and had seen out 21 balls. See out one more, and it would leave Roston Chase, who was batting on 101, to face the last over of the match, the last over of the series, and dramatically raise West Indies’ chances of saving the Test.
Gabriel had kept out those 21 balls by trusting his defence, but now, in one of the most inexplicable moments in Test cricket’s history, he swung wildly, madly at a loopy full delivery pitching well outside off stump from Yasir Shah. The ball took his inside edge and rattled into off stump, sealing one of the greatest days in Pakistan’s cricket history.
This side – Misbah’s side – had done what Hanif Mohammad couldn’t do, what Javed Miandad couldn’t do, what Imran Khan couldn’t do. He had led his side to its first ever series victory in the Caribbean, a 101-run win sealing his – and Younis’ – careers with aplomb. Test cricket certainly has a way of rewarding its own.
Pakistan looked like they would make short work of the final session when, three overs in, Hasan Ali brought an end to Jason Holder’s obdurate resistance. It left West Indies seven down with only the tail to give Chase company.
With the pitch playing extremely slowly, what Hasan did to dismiss him might even have been an intentional ploy. He took the surface out of the equation, hurling a fierce inswinger that made a beeline for leg stump on the full. Holder made a mess of trying to keep it out, and was plumb in front.
But just as Pakistan began to envisage victory, Devendra Bishoo and Chase had designs on a grand resistance. They split the work brilliantly, with Bishoo keeping out Yasir Shah and Chase negotiating the faster bowlers, and Pakistan struggled to break that pattern. Ultimately Misbah resorted to pace from both ends, and Bishoo’s discomfort against the seamers eventually cost him his wicket, as he fended a Mohammad Abbas bouncer to silly point.
Chase had been sensational all series, and it would be churlish to take any credit away from him. But he led a charmed life in the last session and one couldn’t help wondering if he was destined to save the game. On two occasions, Hasan dropped him off his own bowling, and when Abbas had him caught in the slips on 92 in the first over after the second new ball was taken, replays showed he had just overstepped. When Chase drove Hasan down the ground for an exquisite boundary to bring up his hundred, one could sense the stadium felt it too.
Whenever a wicket fell, there was a sense that the resistance had finally ended. But Alzarri Joseph picked up from where Bishoo left off, and then Gabriel took over from Joseph. Between them, West Indies’ Nos. 9, 10 and 11 spent 99 balls at the crease, while scoring 12 runs. Runs had simply ceased to matter by then.
The morning session had been dominated by Pakistan, who made significant inroads towards a series win, dismissing Kraigg Brathwaite, Shimron Hetmyer and Shai Hope to expose the hosts’ middle order in the first hour.
Brathwaite was the first to fall, playing an unseemly shot after getting caught in two minds over what to do with a short Yasir delivery. The ball stuck in the pitch, and Brathwaite spooned it to point.
But the hammer blow was yet to come, with Hetmyer’s bête noire coming back to snare him one final time. Mohammad Amir got one to tail in to Hetmyer, just as he has done all series. The youngster looked to drive on the up, missing the ball completely. He must now be sick of the sight of his off stump sent cartwheeling.
Hasan pushed West Indies further back against the wall with a dream delivery to capture his first Test wicket. Having maintained a disciplined, good length all Test, he changed it up in the most unexpected way, hurling an inswinging yorker destined for Hope’s toes. The batsman was unable to get his bat down in time, and the lbw call was so obvious Chase told Hope not to bother with a review.
Two overs into the afternoon, Vishaul Singh – the closest thing to a walking wicket this series – succumbed to a classic Yasir trap. The legspinner pitched the ball into the rough, and the left-hander failed to judge the turn. His inside edge flicked the pad, popping up to Babar Azam at short leg for a simple catch.
Shane Dowrich fell to the same bowler, and the same fielder, although his wicket was altogether more controversial. His attempt to flick Yasir against the turn looped up to short leg off the pad – before which there may or may not have been a tickle of inside edge – and the umpire Bruce Oxenford adjudged him out. Dowrich reviewed immediately, but lengthy replays turned up no conclusive evidence either way, and the decision was upheld. It was a piece of misfortune the West Indies could have done without, in truth.
But despite all that, West Indies had it in control. Then came Gabriel’s moment of madness, and Misbah went berserk. Cool and calm? What are you on about?