Rejuvenated pacer Ravi Rampaul is on a roll and continues to rock Pakistan with his pace and penetration.
Rampaul spearheaded a disciplined West Indies bowling performance yesterday, which left Pakistan reeling on 180 for six off 73.2 overs at the end of a rain-shortened opening day of the decisive second Digicel cricket Test at Warner Park.
The 26-year-old Trini, looking a lot slimmer than when he played against South Africa here last year, made three telling early strikes en route to fine first-day figures of 18.2-3-40-3.
Captain Darren Sammy and leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo each picked up a wicket as Pakistan’s woes were compounded when topscorer Azhar Ali was run out for a responsible 67 just before the close. His innings contained seven fours and spanned 196 balls and 239 minutes.
The Lahore pair of Ali and the talented Umar Akmal, who batted fluently for 56 off 88 balls with four fours and a six, had resuscitated the ailing Pakistan innings with a fifth-wicket partnership of 93 runs in 105 minutes.
But both fell within nine runs of each other in the last half-hour, to hand the initiative back to the West Indies, who are without the experienced Shivnarine Chanderpaul because of a sore shoulder, but gave prolific 18-year-old schoolboy opener Kraigg Brathwaite his maiden cap, making him West Indies’ fifth youngest Test cricketer.
Since his World Cup career-best One-Day figures of 5-51, Rampaul has delivered the goods in almost every match. Yesterday was no different as he again outbowled his pace partner Kemar Roach, who was wicketless in 16 purposeful, if not penetrative overs.
He struck in his fourth over, producing a lifting delivery which opener Taufeeq Umar (11) gloved to wicketkeeper Carlton Baugh as he was unable to get the bat out of the way.
Fellow opener Mohammed Hafeez went for just eight, also edging to Lendl Simmons, who held a sharp catch at third slip.
While the first two wickets were due to excellent swing bowling from Rampaul, he could only smile when his third victim, Asad Shafiq, fell for a “duck”, slapping an innocuous short delivery straight to Bishoo at backward point.
It left Pakistan in early strife at 24-3 but they got a little respite with the first of four stoppages for rain during the day while crawling to 46 for three in 25 overs at lunch.
On resumption, captain Misbah-ul-Haq and Ali, who at times came down the pitch to the medium pace of Sammy, looked assured in putting together a fourth-wicket stand of exactly 50.
Misbah looked very solid in moving to 25 before Bishoo lured him into a false shot as he tugged a delivered straight to short mid-on where Marlon Samuels held a low catch.
Akmal was in an attacking mode from early in his innings, and lifted Bishoo for a six over longoff before the second shower of the day brought an early tea with Pakistan on 106 for four off 47.3 overs.
The partnership between Ali and Akmal continued to flourish but two further stoppages for rain at 144-4 and 158-4 seemed to upset their rhythm.
Akmal, who turns 21 next week, was out in disappointing fashion when he tried to lift a widish delivery from the persevering Sammy and sliced a catch to a tumbling Rampaul coming off the third man boundary.
There was more disaster for Pakistan when Ali drove Sammy into the covers where Ramnaresh Sarwan fielded cleanly and relayed the ball to Baugh as both batsmen ended up at the non-striker’s end.
Ali, who had earlier survived a close leg-side stumping by Baugh standing up to Sammy, was also dropped on 58 by Simmons (standing a bit too wide at the solitary slip) off the same bowler.
He was unfortunately given out by umpire Asoka De Silva even though television replays showed Mohammed Salman just out of his crease.