Babar, Rizwan repair damage as Pakistan edge 81 runs ahead

Kingston (Jamaica) (AFP) –


Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan were attempting to lift their team out of a deep hole when heavy rain forced an early tea with Pakistan at 117 for four, a lead of 81, in their second innings on the third day of the first Test at Sabina Park on Saturday.

Reduced to 65 for four when Jayden Seales copied the pre-lunch exploits of senior pacer Kemar Roach in taking two quick wickets at the start of the afternoon session, Azam and Rizwan found the right balance between defiance and positivity .

They put on 52 runs for the fifth wicket with the captain unbeaten on 28 and the wicketkeeper-batsman set to resume on 26 should the showers relent and allow further play.

On a pitch where fluent scoring continues to be difficult, Pakistan must feel they will be in with a fighting chance of replicating their Sabina Park victory in the opening match of the corresponding series four years ago should they manage to get a lead anywhere close to 200.

As bleak as the situation appeared in early afternoon for the visitors on their Independence Day, Shaheen Shah Afridi got them off to the perfect start in the morning by taking the last two West Indies first innings wickets to have the home side dismissed for 253.

However that satisfaction was immediately tainted by Roach, who left the visitors in more than a little discomfort with a wicket in each of his two spells before lunch.

Once again showing the value of his experience and accuracy, the Barbadian trapped Imran Butt leg-before without scoring.

After an increasingly promising 55-run stand between the other opener, Abid Ali, and former captain Azhar Ali, Roach then produced a sharp off-cutter to Azhar which clipped the right-hander's leg-stump as he shuffled too far across the crease off what proved to be the final ball of the morning.

While Azhar's reaction to the dismissal suggested that the ball had also kept lower than he anticipated, it was just reward for the persevering Roach who had earlier seen the normally safe pair of hands of Jason Holder spill a regulation catch at second slip off the same batsman.

Holder atoned for that surprising lapse when he gave Seales his first wicket of the innings via Abid Ali's edged cut high to the right to the tall allrounder at second slip.

There was even greater jubilation in the West Indies camp three balls later when first innings top-scorer Fawad Alam edged another Seales delivery to wicketkeeper Joshua da Silva for a duck.

At that stage Pakistan had lost three wickets for nine runs either side of the lunch interval and were in desperate need of stability, which Babar and Rizwan provided before the rains came.

It was all brilliant sunshine though at the start of the day with Shaheen Shah Afridi needing just ten deliveries to wrap up the West Indies innings after they resumed at 251 for eight.

He bowled Jomel Warrican comprehensively in the first over of the day and then earned an LBW verdict against da Silva in his second over to finish with figures of four for 59.