With the weather gods threatening to play spoilsport in Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan’s farewell Test, more eyes were skywards than on the duo to begin with. A light drizzle during the toss subsided in time for play to begin. West Indies skipper Jason Holder elected to bowl first in muggy conditions but as the day wore on, twin fifties from Azhar Ali and Babar Azam ensured that the visitors stayed ahead on the opening day’s action of the deciding Test. At Stumps on Day 1, Pakistan were on 169 for 2, with Ali unbeaten on 85 and Younis Khan at the crease on 10.
While the hosts West Indies were happy to make no changes, Pakistan handed Hasan Ali with his first Test cap and Shan Masood came in to replace a sick Ahmed Shehzad. On a damp wicket, Shannon Gabriel went past the outside edge of Ali on as many as two occasions but the latter stuck it out better in the following minutes of play. Pakistan’s scoring rate failed to inspire as the hosts tightened the noose with some tidy bowling. Upon introduction in the bowling attack, Roston Chase extracted surprising amount of turn before snaffling the wicket of opener Shan Masood for 9.
Ali combined well with Babar Azam to play out the first session solidly but the 125 dot deliveries seemed to plague the overall progress. The 40-minute Lunch break stood extended as rain made an unwanted appearance to keep the players indoor. When play resumed after a further 40-minute delay, only two overs were possible before covers were pulled in again. As a result, early Tea was taken.
With 48 overs scheduled to be played in the final session, West Indies began on a poor note, dropping Babar Azam in the 31st over. Devendra Bishoo produced sharp turn to induce the outside edge but the ‘keeper obstructed a catch that was comfortably headed towards the first slip fielder. The missed opportunity meant the second wicket stand was there to stay. Azhar Ali registered his 26th Test fifty with a nudge towards cover before an outside edge fetched a streaky four to bring up the 100-run stand for the duo.
As the hosts desperately made bowling changes at the crease, Babar Azam eased his way to his fourth fifty in Tests. However, Azam failed to make the opportunity count when Alzarri Joseph produced a bottom edge from the indecisive right-hander. Azam (55) looked to leave a wide ball but the late decision to withdraw his bat saw the ball landing safely in the hands of the first slip fielder.
In what was an emotional moment, Younis arrived at the crease amid a rousing applause. His teammates gave him a standing ovation while the opponents offered him a guard of honour. Since then, the duo has added 30 runs in just over 14 overs to keep the hosts at bay.
Brief Scores at Stumps: Pakistan 169/2 (Azhar Ali 85*, Babar Azam 55; Roston Chase 1-27, Alzarri Joseph 1-39) vs West Indies.