Pakistan will still be hurting from the one-wicket defeat against the West Indies in the first Test in Jamaica, and they only have themselves to blame.
Defending a modest target of 168 in the final innings, Pakistan’s fast bowlers — led by Shaheen Afridi and Hasan Ali — wreaked havoc as they reduced the hosts to 114-7. With victory in sight, however, Pakistan’s fielding let the team down with three dropped chances, including two of Kemar Roach who made an unbeaten 30 and hit the winning runs.
It was just the 15th instance of a team winning a Test by one wicket.
Fielding will therefore be in focus when Pakistan take on the West Indies in the second and final Test of the tour in Kingston, Jamaica, which begins on Friday.
After the heartbreak in the opening Test, Pakistan captain Babar Azam had admitted catching was a cause for concern.
“We put in a good effort with the bat,” Azam said. “The bowlers then restricted them before our bowlers took the wickets.
“Again, in the second innings, we fought with the bat and the bowlers hit back. Had we taken those dropped catches, the result could have been different.
“When you drop catches, the course of the match changes. We got two chances but couldn't take them, which is why we lost. We did pull off a few good catches. But we dropped a few, so lost the match.”
Pakistan’s bowling coach Waqar Younis decided to focus on the positives, with the bowling until coming in for praise. Left-arm quick Afridi picked up eight wickets in the Test while Hasan gave him good support in both innings.
“I must say all the bowlers bowled really well throughout the Test. Despite the small target, they put in all the hard work and responded well,” Waqar said. “They fought and never let it go easily.”
The hosts, on the other hand, will be buoyed by the effort of young quick Jayden Seales. The 19-year-old was named man of the match for his haul of 8-125 which included 5-55 in the second innings.
Seales become the youngest-ever to take five wickets in a Test innings for the West Indies. “He is a star for the future,” Roach said of Seales. “His five wickets speaks wonders about our cricket.”
Pakistan won the preceding T20 series and will now be hoping to end the tour with the Test series shared.
There will be another incentive for Babar to do well. He is currently placed eighth in Test rankings for batsmen on 725 points. He is right behind India wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant who is on 736 points.
The other major area of focus for Pakistan will be the form of their veteran spinner Yasir Shah. In the first Test, Shah went wicketless in both innings, and was used for just three overs in the second outing. He also didn't contribute much with the bat, putting his spot under the scanner.
The visitors could thus look to give left-arm spinner Nauman Ali a chance.
The hosts might not want to change a winning combination, which means the bowling burden could fall mostly on Roach and captain Jason Holder. Their batsmen, however, will need to raise their game as it was their bowlers who got them over the line in the chase.