India v West Indies: Umesh Yadav delivers but Windies show fight

Ashish Peter 12/10/2018
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Umesh struck at crucial times for India. Image - BCCI/Twitter.

India made a strong start in the second Test against the West Indies at Hyderabad but it was the visitors who took the plaudits by the end of day one with a spirited fightback.

West Indies skipper Jason Holder won the toss and elected to bat first as India handed a Test debut to Shardul Thakur. The visitors were in trouble early on before a fine seventh-wicket stand resurrected their innings. Holder’s men at 295-7 when stumps were drawn on day one with middle order batsman Roston Chase unbeaten on 98.

At the end of an eventful day, we look at the talking points.

SHARDUL’S DEBUT TURNS SOUR QUICKLY

It was meant to be an occasion to savour for Thakur after the seamer was handed his India Test debut. The 26-year-old was picked in the playing XI after the team management opted to give pacer Mohammed Shami a rest.

Surprisingly picked ahead of Mohammed Siraj, Thakur’s dream debut lasted only 10 balls before he sustained a groin injury. After being attended to by the team physio, the seamer hobbled off the field before being taken to the hospital for scans.

“Shardul Thakur has gone for scans. He will not take the field today. An update on his participation for the rest of the Test will be taken after looking at the scans and after being assessed by the team management,” a statement from the team read.

Thakur had complained of soreness around his groin during the Asia Cup as well and his injury could now force the hosts to make do with only four specialist bowlers for the Test.

YADAVS SHINE FOR INDIA

While it was Ravichandran Ashwin who provided India with the early breakthrough on day one, it was the two Yadavs who were the stars with the ball for the hosts.

Kuldeep Yadav continued from where he left off at Rajkot with another fine showing. The youngster trapped the dangerous Kraigg Brathwaite and Shimron Hetmyer lbw to put India ahead before accounting for Sunil Ambris with a googly.

While the spinners were at the forefront of India’s efforts, it was Umesh Yadav’s pace that provided them with three breakthroughs at crucial junctures. Just when the Windies seemed to have steadied the ship after the fall of the openers, the pacer’s skiddy delivery trapped the well-set Shai Hope plumb in front at the stroke of lunch.

In the second session, Shane Dowrich was looking good at the crease after getting off to a good start before some sharp reverse swing from Umesh trapped him on the pads.

Umesh then came to the party once again when India desperately needed it with the second new ball. The visitors were set to claim the honours for the day with a century-plus stand between Chase and Holder before Umesh struck. Those wickets tipped the scales back in India’s favour and ensured that there would be no wicketless session on day one.

ROSTON CHASE LEADS WINDIES FIGHTBACK

A familiar script seemed to repeating itself for the West Indies after Ambris’ dismissal reduced them to 113-5. However, India’s hopes of wrapping up the visitors’ innings fairly quickly were dashed by Roston Chase and Holder. The former showed his batting prowess with a fine half-century in the first innings at Rajkot and he proved to be a thorn in India’s flesh again on Friday with a well controlled knock.

Chase was especially assured against India’s three-man spin attack and dealt with them in confident fashion through some excellent use of the feet. He found able support at the other end from the West Indies skipper as he brought up his seventh Test fifty and neared a fourth ton. Back from injury, Holder looked like he had never been away as he notched up his eighth half-century before the close of play.

The pair’s 104-run partnership frustrated the hosts’ bowlers no end and it was only broken in the final moments of the day as Holder suffered a brief lapse in concentration to be strangled down the leg-side for 52.

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Sarfraz Ahmed confident Yasir Shah will bounce back after disappointing Dubai Test

Denzil Pinto 12/10/2018
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Yasir Shah took four wickets on the final day

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed has backed Yasir Shah to be more lethal with the ball after enduring a difficult Test in the drawn match against Australia.

Yasir returned to the five-day game for the first time in a year after recovering from a hip injury but the leg-spinner, identified by many to play a decisive role in the series, wasn’t at his best.

The 32-year-old went wicketless in the first four days of the first Test but came alive on the final day, taking four scalps including centurion Usman Khawaja but Australia held on for a thrilling draw in Dubai on Thursday.

He finished the match with figures of 4-194 but Sarfraz insists the way Yasir claimed his four wickets was enough to suggest he can produce the goods consistently when the second and final Test in Abu Dhabi begins on Tuesday.

“He is playing a Test match after almost one year,” said Sarfraz. “He bowled well in domestic matches but there is a lot more pressure in a Test match. This was his first game so hopefully he will bounce back strongly in the next match. He is our main bowler and we need to support him because he has been a great performer for Pakistan in the past.”

One of the bowlers who impressed for Pakistan was Test debutant Bilal Asif. The 33-year-old off-spinner had a strong start to his red-ball international career, taking six wickets in the first innings. However, he wasn’t able to replicate that in the second, finishing with 0-87.

Sarfraz Ahmed has backed Yasir Shah to bounce back

Sarfraz Ahmed has backed Yasir Shah to bounce back

Sarfraz admits pressure may have got to Asif in the second innings but believes he will play a vital role in the series.

“In the first innings, he got great bounce, had good pace and got wickets. On the fourth day, you have to bowl different. We have discussed with him. He does not have much experience with first-class cricket too. We told him how to bowl on the fifth day and how to create pressure. He has just started and is a great bowler. I think he can be a great performer for Pakistan.”

Ultimately, Pakistan were denied by the brilliance of Khawaja, hitting 141 runs to register his seventh Test century. The opener batted nearly the entire day on Thursday and while he was dismissed by Yasir, Tim Paine’s battling half-century ensured the tourists held on for a draw.

Former Pakistan batsman Rameez Raja described Khawaja’s efforts as one of the best fourth-inning knocks he had seen in Asia and Sarfraz agreed.

“I cannot praise Usman Khawaja’s innings enough, he played an extraordinary innings,” he added. “He carried the entire team almost alone and he got great support from Travis Head. Some of the shots he played on the fifth day of a Test against out bowlers like the sweeps and reverse sweeps, it was very frustrating.

“We had done really well to get in a position to win but that is why Test cricket is so beautiful. A team can draw a match from a losing position. We tried our best but they played really well.”

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Usman Khawaja steals the show as Australia earn A+ in thrilling draw

Denzil Pinto 11/10/2018
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Centurion: Usman Khawaja

Usman Khawaja scored his seventh Test century as Australia salvaged a deserved and thrilling draw in the first Test against Pakistan on Thursday.

The Baggy Greens went into the fifth and final day at Dubai International Stadium on 136-3 in their second innings, knowing they would have to bat the full 90 overs to save the match and they did exactly that.

Khawaja, who batted nearly the entire day, reached his hundred off 224 balls and when he was trapped lbw by Yasir Shah, he scored 141 runs from 302 deliveries. Yasir later struck twice in one over to remove Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle to set up a frantic finish.

Travis Head (72) scored his maiden Test half-century while Pakistan needed two wickets in the final five overs.  The Men in Green got close to completing the job but skipper Tim Paine (61) and Nathan Lyon (5) ensured the draw to remain unbeaten as Australia finished 362-8.

For Pakistan, Yasir was the pick of the bowlers with 4-114. The teams will meet again in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday for the second and final Test.

Here, we look at the talking points from the final day of the Test.

THE GOOD

USMAN KHAWAJA

When Australia needed their batsmen to stand up, they surely did. But one man stole the show and that was Khawaja. Prior to the match, the 31-year-old had scored six Test centuries – all of which came on home soil. Questions were raised whether he could replicate that outside home conditions. On Thursday, we got the answer as the Pakistan-born batsman scored a superb 141. The signs were already there when he scored 85 in the first innings and when the pressure was on, resuming play on 50, went on to score his seventh Test century in 224 balls. Bearing the hot climate, it was a remarkable effort from the opener with former Pakistan international Rameez Raja hailing it as one of the best knocks he’s seen in the UAE. Even when Khawaja was in the 90s, with three fielders on the leg-side, he wasn’t afraid to go for the reverse-sweep, which he has mastered considering the number of times he pulled the shot during the day.

YASIR SHAH BACK TO HIS BEST

A lot of the talk in the build-up to the first Test was about the threat of leg-spinner Yasir. But in the past four days, the 32-year-old was largely a spectator, going wicketless as Mohammad Abbas and Bilal Asif claimed key wickets. That run ended on the final day when Test debutant Marmus Labuschagne became his first victim to fall after being trapped LBW. After a large spell in which the Aussies dominated, Yasir made the breakthrough again by trapping dangerman Khawaja. He again let the ball do the talking, striking twice in an over to remove Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle.

THE BAD

IMAM-UL-HAQ PAYS THE PRICE WITH INJURY

Given that Pakistan were left seething that they could not wrap up a victory, they will have to do without the services of opening batsman Imam-ul-Haq for the second decisive Test in Abu Dhabi. The 22-year-old fractured his little finger while diving during fielding. His absence will be a huge blow considering he scored 76 runs in the first innings in Dubai.

PAKISTAN BOWLERS FAIL TO APPLY PRESSURE

Having bowled out the tourists in the first innings, Sarfraz would have been confident that his bowlers would complete the job. They nearly did, showing a lot of energy in the last session but that was missing from the very first ball as they allowed Australian batsmen to settle and pile on the runs.

KEY MOMENTS

60.3 – CHANCE

Travis Head comes out and attempts to sweep Yasir Shah. Fails to get contact but umpire doesn’t raise his finger.

61.4 – FIFTY

Head hits a single off Bilal Asif to bring up his maiden Test fifty.

77.5 – CHANCE

Usman Khawaja survives a review. Tries to defend the ball but misses it completely. Umpires gives it not out but TV replays show, Khawaja got just outside the line for the impact to stay umpire’s call.

80.1 – WICKET

Mohammad Hafeez gets his first wicket of the day, trapping Head for LBW.

86.1 – MILESTONE

Usman Khawaja tucks Mohammad Hafeez away for a single to bring up his century off 224 deliveries.

11 10 Usman Khawaja

125.3 – WICKET

It’s a big one as Yasir traps Khawaja for 141. The batsman reviews it but goes against him.

KEY TURNING POINT

It came inside the first hour of play and Pakistan will be thinking of what could have been had Sarfraz Ahmed reviewed Travis Head’s LBW off Yasir. The debutant misread the delivery by trying the sweep and was fortunate not to be dismissed as TV replays showed the ball was hitting the middle stump with the debutant on 44. Head went on to score 72 which set the platform for Australia’s draw.

VERDICT

PAKISTAN – C

The result will feel like a defeat especially given they were so close. It was up to the bowlers to complete the job and while Yasir’s late wickets put Australia under pressure, it was a matter of too little too late.

AUSTRALIA – A+

Not many people would have given Australia hope when stumps was called on Wednesday. But the manner of how Paine and Co approached the innings and pulled off the draw deserves recognition. With three wickets down, the Aussies faced a gigantic task but Khawaja led the way while Paine and Nathan Lyon showed grit and determination to grind out a result even when the centurion departed.

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