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Can the Windies repeat their Pakistan performance?

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Jason_Holder_West_Indies_CricketSo the West Indies have won at home. Incredibly, they defeated an opposition notorious for fighting hard against any cricketing outfit. Pakistan, who were bowled out for just 81 in pursuit of 188 at Barbados, are renowned for being merciless chasers in the fourth innings.

The Caribbean stars of the moment: Shannon Gabriel took 4 wickets in the first innings and a five-for in the second, collecting a magnificent 9 wickets from the 2nd Test, and has impressed greatly. So have Roston Chase and Shai Hope- the former striking a defiant first innings hundred of 131 and the latter scoring a crucial 90 that paved the way for a memorable West Indian triumph.

Moreover, this was a special feat for the home team considering the victory came from a team effort where others - in addition to men of the moment - Gabriel, Hope & Chase - chipped in too. Alzarri Joseph collected two crucial wickets. Captain Holder contributed with both bat and ball- striking a much needed fifty in the first innings and taking three wickets in each innings, ensuring his side didn’t throw away the chance as they so often have.

But even this glorious West Indies victory cannot stop the cynics.

Does the 106 run victory at the Kensington Oval signal a turnaround?

Knowing the West Indies’ reputation, built thanks to their dubious consistency in playing mediocre cricket, even their closest fans would be shocked, being so used to seeing a near victory turn into another specter of despair.

After all, so pleasant has been the outcome at Bridgetown, Barbados, where the home team last won was back in 2015, that instead of bringing a reason for pronounced celebration, it has initiated an introspection of West Indies’ victory.

How long will this last? Is it a rare one-off triumph?

Is the jubilation of having trounced Pakistan, belting them with serious fast bowling and restricting a strong batting line-up under 100, another of those stunning West Indies victories that have happened too infrequently to be given real credit for?

Here’s proof for speculation. The last time the West Indies won at home was exactly two years ago. Powered by an unbeaten 82 by Darren Bravo; a special knock stitched together by an impressive support innings by Jermaine Blackwood, 47 not out off 104 balls. Windies plundered England in an important, spirited victory by a margin of 5 wickets. It was May 2015.

During these two years, the West Indies have lost almost every home Test, save a memorable rain-assisted draw against India in Jamaica, 2016 and a less memorable washout also against India. Victories have been a dream in this harsh reality.

Australia ran through them. India plundered them. Pakistan very nearly would have.

So while obvious positives must be counted and given due respect, it might seem like a bit too premature to indicate that West Indian revival has begun.

For a team that literally assists an opponent in drubbing itself i.e. handing away a whopping 44 extras in Pakistan’s first innings total of 393, it doesn’t help that the Windies’ leading pace bowler, Gabriel delivered 9 no-balls in his 1st innings run.

Furthermore, West Indies’ constant troubles with a lack of discipline in pace bowling department- now, clearly indicating toward a revival of sorts, especially with Alzarri Joseph in the count- are exacerbated by their captain’s hapless body language.

At times, you can’t help but sense an absence of any kind of urgency in Jason Holder’s body language. Furthermore, those loose deliveries, bowled in a state of cricket’s equivalent of mental absentia don’t inspire great confidence. The West Indies might have conceded a remarkably dainty tally of 3 extras in Pakistan’s 81, but 2 of them were large no-balls delivered extremely carelessly by their own captain, so much of a talent otherwise.

At times, it seems, where even the most furiously quick bowlers- Mitchell Starc, Trent Boult deliver big no-balls, the West Indies offer nothing less than world’s longest dividing lines.

In fact, their remarkable Barbados triumph would’ve very nearly not happened given the way Windies approached Pakistan in 1st innings.

It almost seemed Holder and men didn’t want opening batsman Ahmed Shehzad dismissed. They offered him three lifelines when Gabriel overstepped twice and on both occasions the right-hander had luck riding on him.

The former, being a classic fast bowlers’ dismissal of catching batsman plumb in front- a sight most captains pat their bowlers at the back for.

Thankfully he didn’t make it count and captain Misbah’s magnificent 99, the second of the series didn’t help much.

While it’s common for a quickie to misfire, which slow off spinner, one who bowls slower than the pace at which a Rahul Dravid built his innings deliver giant no-balls? Barbados Test hero, Chase, who struck a fighting hundred wasn’t that clever with the bowl in hand.

As Pakistan head into the decisive Dominica Test, starting May 10, they’ll want to have a quick look at Misbah’s impressive feats: two massively impressive scores of 99 have been collected at the back of a painfully-correct tedium of putting obduracy in front of that tight defense; currently a weak-point of their top batsman- especially Younis. And while the final Test will be a swansong moment for two elder statesmen of a nation that still rests its Test-winning abilities on these premier batsmen’s capabilities- the West Indies should know they will have a clear task cut out for them.

It might not be that easy for them in the Test that’s ‘all to play for’. Along with swansongs, it might also serve a litmus Test for guys like- Vishaul Singh and Shimron Hetmeyer, both of whom have so far failed to get going.

 

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