West Indies scrambled to a pulsating one-wicket victory over Pakistan on Sunday as the visitors self-destructed in the final session of the fourth day when on course to take the first Test of the two-match series at Sabina Park.
Defending a modest target of 168 after they were dismissed in the morning session for 203, Shaheen Shah Afridi led the attack with figures of four for 50 in reducing the home side to 114 for seven at tea with only wicketkeeper-batsman Joshua da Silva and the tailenders left.
However, in scenes reminiscent of a similar one-wicket loss in the deciding Test of the 2000 series in Antigua, the Pakistanis lost the discipline in their bowling and composure in the field.
Three catches were missed to allow Kemar Roach and last man Jayden Seales to take their team to the target with a last-wicket partnership of 17.
Roach, who was dropped twice, hit the winning runs off Hasan Ali to finish unbeaten on 30.
Ironically, it was Hasan who missed a straightforward catch at deep square-leg off Shaheen which allowed Roach to eventually complete the job at the end alongside a jubilant Seales.
Seales was named Man of the Match for his match haul of eight for 125 which included five for 55 in the second innings.
For the fast bowler, who is less than a month away from his 20th birthday, it was a historic achievement when he mopped up the Pakistan tail with the last three wickets to become the youngest-ever to take five wickets in a Test innings for the West Indies.
“I just decided to take it step by step, run by run,” said a relieved Roach minutes after completing what looked an unlikely task when he joined da Silva at the start of play after tea.
“This is easily the most important innings I have ever played, and credit to Jayden as well for holding on with me at the end and for his five-wicket haul today because he is someone really special as a young fast bowler.”
Pakistan Captain Babar Azam did well to hide his disappointment but could not avoid referencing the obvious costly errors when it mattered most.
“This is the beauty of Test cricket. Our bowlers were really good, especially Shaheen and Abbas,” said the skipper, omitting to mention the three wickets taken by Hasan in the push for victory.
“Had we taken those catches the result could have been different.”
A topsy-turvy day started with Pakistan losing their last five wickets for 35 runs to leave the West Indies with what looked a tricky target.
Notwithstanding Seales’ success with the ball, the key wicket of Babar was claimed by Kyle Mayers.
The all-rounder had little else to cheer on the day before the dramatic victory was achieved as he endured the indignity of a ‘pair’, with the frailties of the West Indies batting once again exposed either side of a 68-run, fourth-wicket partnership between Jermaine Blackwood and Roston Chase.
Blackwood top-scored with 55 and Chase reached 22, his dismissal to Faheem Ashraf in mid-afternoon tilting the balance of the contest once again Pakistan’s way.
Ironically, given the rash of errors in the field which were to follow in the final session, the tourists claimed four wickets in the post-lunch period, three of them taken by Imran Butt at second slip.
His effort to dismiss Blackwood was particularly impressive, emphasising his confidence and sure hands in diving in front opening partner Abid Ali at first slip to snare the chance.
Pakistan’s missed opportunities were a disservice to the outstanding effort of Shaheen, who finished with eight wickets in the match.
He set the West Indies on the back foot at the start of the chase, with the wickets of Kieran Powell, Captain Kraigg Brathwaite and Nkrumah Bonner returning in the final session to account for da Silva and break a stubborn partnership with Roach.
Yet it was all in vain with Pakistan having only themselves to blame as they look toward the second and final Test at the same venue starting on Friday.