Babar Azam missed out on a hundred but Fawad Alam may yet have the chance to reach three figures after the pair lifted Pakistan from a horrific start to end day one of the second Test against the West Indies in relative comfort at 212 for four at Sabina Park on Friday.
Babar’s composed 75 through almost five hours at the crease and Fawad’s typically pugnacious 76 before retiring hurt from severe leg cramps just after tea rescued the tourists from the depths of three for two.
Kemar Roach once again led the charge with the ball for the home side, taking three for 49 off 17 overs, striking in his first two overs of the match.
He then returned in the final session to claim the all-important wicket of Babar when the Pakistan captain appeared to be moving serenely towards a sixth Test century.
His fourth-wicket stand with Fawad was worth 158 when the awkward-looking left-hander had to limp off the field on a sweltering afternoon in the Jamaican capital where temperatures hit 34 degrees.
Those dehydrating conditions also claimed West Indies wicketkeeper Joshua da Silva who was replaced by Jahmar Hamilton for the rest of the day when the first-choice gloveman left the field just before tea.
Despite Babar’s dismissal and the temporary loss of Fawad, Pakistan remain on course for a challenging first innings total with Mohammad Rizwan and Faheem Ashraf set to resume on the second morning in a fifth-wicket partnership that has added 44 runs.
That promising position was in stark contrast though to the situation Pakistan found themselves in when they were tottering at two for three just four overs into the day.
Their hopes for a solid start after being put in crumbled in the very first over when Abid Ali fell to a good low catch by Jermaine Blackwood at third slip off Roach.
Revelling in the bowler-friendly conditions, the senior seamer then dismissed Azhar Ali without scoring, the former captain edging a delivery through to da Silva.
Jayden Seales, man of the match in the first Test when he claimed eight wickets including five in the second innings, enjoyed his share of the early spoils.
He drew the other opener, Imran Butt, into playing at another full-length delivery for da Silva to take his second straightforward catch in nine balls.
Babar and Fawad then displayed admirable grit and discipline in defying West Indies’ all-pace attack with the elegant skipper countering with a handful of handsome boundaries.
Fawad was again a model of unorthodox defiance given his much-talked about exaggerated square-on batting stance.
“I thought Kemar (Roach) should have extended his opening spell for a couple more overs given that he was bowling so well and the conditions were really helpful to the bowlers at that time,” said West Indies bowling coach Roddy Estwick.
“Still, you have to give credit to the way Babar and Fawad played because they buckled down well and worked hard to get their team in a decent position.”
The pair played with increasing freedom in the post-lunch period as 83 runs were added in the two hours of play.
They looked set to prosper even more in the day’s final session but Fawad fell victim to the conditions.
Whether or not his departure upset his skipper’s concentration, Babar’s innings ended an hour into the post-tea period via a sharp low catch at second slip by Jason Holder off Roach.
West Indies are seeking a first Test series triumph over Pakistan for 21 years.
The visitors are hoping to repeat the efforts of the 2005 and 2011 tours of the Caribbean when they lost the first encounters before rebounding to square both two-Test series.