BRIDGETOWN: Yasir Shah’s stranglehold of the West Indies continued on the fourth day of the second Test at Kensington Oval in Barbados on Wednesday as the leg-spinner snared six for 90 to re-open the prospect of a first-ever Test match victory at the venue for Pakistan going into the final day. Despite a patient, disciplined Test best of 90 from Shai Hope and a succession of half-century partnerships that raised expectations of the home side batting their way to safety, West Indies slipped from the relative comfort of 235 for four to be 264 for nine at stumps. They go into the final day on Thursday ahead by 183 runs with the last pair at the crease. On a deteriorating pitch, Pakistan’s final target may still be a challenging one as they seek the historic win which would also give them a first-ever Test series triumph in the Caribbean. “Man of the Match” in the seven-wicket win the first Test in Jamaica, Shah was again the key performer when it mattered most for Pakistan. Hope appeared to have blunted the threat successfully through more than five hours of watchful batsmanship. However within sight of a maiden Test hundred, he drove Shah to cover where Azhar Ali held the catch that triggered the late slide. Having broken an 80-run fifth-wicket partnership with Vishaul Singh, Pakistan were celebrating again off the very next delivery as Singh was on his way back to the pavilion, bowled off the inside edge by seamer Mohammad Abbas for 32. Three wickets fell for one run when Younis Khan held his fifth catch of the match, a brilliant reflex effort at slip to remove West Indies captain Jason Holder off Shah. In his farewell series like captain Misbah ul Haq, Younis is now the only fielder to have taken 50 catches after the age of 35 in Test cricket.
“It’s about staying fit and staying sharp and expectant in the field,” the 39-year-old explained. “This pitch is pretty much like what we play on at home and in the UAE (United Arab Emirates), so if we play properly and concentrate we should be able to get whatever the target is on the last day.” In rampant mood after the late success, Shah then disposed of Shane Dowrich and Alzarri Joseph in quick succession just before the close to leave Devendra Bishoo and last man Shannon Gabriel to carry the fight for the home side into the last day. With more and more questions being asked about his continued presence in the regional side given a paltry average of 15.40 and a topscore of 41 prior to this innings, Hope went a long way in responding to the critics in a situation where the West Indies were always likely to capitulate. He came to the crease in the morning after Pakistan struck an early blow when the West Indies resumed at 40 for one, Mohammad Amir bowling Shimron Hetmyer before the left-hander could add to his overnight score of 22. Kraigg Brathwaite continued to bat resolutely in partnership with Hope, the pair putting on 56 for the third wicket despite the varying challenges posed by the tourists’ combination of pace and wrist-spin. It was Shah, the more experienced of the specialist slow bowlers, who provided the breakthrough when he removed the obdurate Brathwaite for 43. Fresh from a century in the first innings, Roston Chase proved an able partner to Hope for the rest of the morning and then deep into the afternoon session, their fourth-wicket stand producing 58 invaluable runs when Chase was deceived by a flighted Shah delivery to be caught-and-bowled for 23.