Pakistan aim to push for their third consecutive home series triumph in the final Test against the West Indies, as two of the world’s finest batsmen would take centre stage in the match starting from today here at the National Stadium.
With local batting star Mohammad Yousuf and West Indian captain Brian Lara within striking distance of achieving major personal milestones, record books may well need some updating over the course of the Test.
But rival captains declared that the focus would be on winning the Test. “Winning this series is important for us and we aim to get a positive result from this Test,” Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq said. “The West Indies played good cricket in the last Test but our performance has also been good and I hope to win this one.”
Pakistan have triumphed in their previous two Test series against England (2-0) and India (1-0) in their own backyard and the last time they were unable to win a series at home was when Sri Lanka drew 1-1 against them in 2004.
Pakistan go into the final Test against Lara’s men with a 1-0 lead achieved through a nine-wicket triumph in the opening match in Lahore. But they were far from convincing in the second Test where the West Indies were in the driving seat until the last day before an invaluable 191 by Yousuf earned the hosts a draw.
Before that memorable knock, Yousuf had scores of 193 and 56 in his previous two outings in the series — a run feast that has helped him accumulate 1562 runs just 149 short of breaking the West Indian legend Viv Richard’s record of 1710 runs in a calendar year.
So it was no surprise when Lara announced in a press conference on Sunday that his bowlers would be out to get Yousuf’s scalp. “We would want to maintain Richard’s record which is why we plan to come down hard against Yousuf,” he said.
Lara, who needs 94 runs to become the first batsman in history to reach the 12000-run mark in Test cricket, sees his team’s show in Multan as a perfect build-up for the third Test and says that a similar performance can help give the West Indies a rare win over a top side. “Minus the dropped catches, we played greatly in Multan and by performing like that we can win here.”
He is happy that Karachi is sunnier than the previous two venues and believes full 15 sessions of play would yield a result.
Lara agreed that “it could well be” his last Test on Pakistani soil, adding that he would want to make it a memorable one. “Winning this Test would be a great way to leave Pakistan,” he said.
He made it clear that West Indies’ poor Test record in the last ten years is not on his players’ mind. “We haven’t won a Test against a big team in the last six years but that is not affecting us. After playing well in Multan we go in this match very optimistically.”
Lara played down the role of pitches in the current series. “If you play hard cricket, you can get a result on any surface,” he said.
He agrees that Pakistan’s most potent weapon currently is Yousuf but added that his team would not be taking any Pakistani player lightly. “(Imran) Farhat scored two fifties in the last Test so Yousuf is not alone in scoring runs.”
The West Indies are still undecided on whether to recall batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan who was dropped in Multan because of an indifferent form with Lara saying that the tourists are still weighing their options.
For Pakistan, the question of the day was whether to field pacer Mohammad Sami and if yes then who should sit out. All-rounder Abdul Razzaq’s place was in doubt before Multan but a match-saving 80 in the last Test makes it a difficult decision to drop him.
Inzamam said Pakistan are considering playing Sami because his return would give them extra pace on the National Stadium wicket where the ball tends to swing during this time of the year. “The weather here is different and the ball swings making conditions helpful for fast bowlers,” said Inzamam.
But he fell short of confirming Sami’s inclusion, saying, “If Sami plays our pace attack will improve but let’s see.”
Pakistan have been unable to find a way to conquer Lara in this series and they have reasons to believe that Sami, with his extra pace, might provide the answer. Lara is 37 and may find that his reflexes are not as good against genuine fast bowlers as they once were during the prime of his career.
Inzamam’s own form has been pretty bad since serving a four-match ban this fall but the captain said he is in a positive frame of my mind. “I will try to score some runs here,” he said.
He rejected the impression that Pakistani wickets were bad for Test cricket saying that matches here have been more result-oriented than any most other places in the recent past. “We have had a lot of results in Tests during the last three years and I am hopeful of getting one here as well.”
Source:The NewsMore on:Brian Lara, Mohammad Yousuf, Pakistan, West Indies, West Indies in Pakistan 2006
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