A disappointed West Indies captain Jason Holder cited the dropped chances off Azhar Ali in the first innings and an extraordinary number of extras conceded by his side as crucial factors in their close defeat to Pakistan in the first Test in Dubai.
Holder, however, was all praise for his team, particularly the classy Darren Bravo, who made Pakistan uncomfortable by running them close to the final hour on the fifth day. This in spite of being on the back foot for the first three days of the Test.
Holder was referring to dropped chances of Azhar Ali who went on to score a mammoth 302 not out and was dropped twice in his innings - once by Leon Johnson when he was yet to cross 20, and then again on 190 by Jermaine Blackwood off Roston Chase.
"It's tough to say. When you look at the game in hindsight you can say a lot of things. Obviously, credit must go to Azhar Ali, I thought he played really well. We put him down; at that stage if we would have held him, we would have had a new batsman in," Holder said. "But that's cricket. If you look at it critically, it's those one or two chances that we missed. In the second innings, Babar Azam getting out off a no-ball. Things like this, if we negate them then we have less problems going forward."
Extras add to Windies’ misery
Holder admitted that his pace bowlers, especially Shannon Gabriel, had to keep his front foot in check. Gabriel bowled 11 no-balls in the entire match, including 10 in the first innings, something unacceptable from a front-line seamer. Extras contributed 22 runs to Pakistan's first innings total of 579.
The skipper was quick to point out that the comeback from the West Indies – after being outplayed completely in the first three days – was exceptional. Devendra Bishoo came in for special praise from Holder for his 8/49 that reduced Pakistan to 123 in the second innings.
Darren Bravo impressive in both innings
Holder also praised Bravo, who played a superb knock under pressure to take the game close.
Bravo made a vital 87 in the first innings, to carry on his majestic form in the Asian continent. He bettered his first innings score with a stubborn 116 in the second innings which helped West Indies reach within 83 runs of a victory before he was dismissed by Yasir Shah. A draw was still a possibility after he had been dismissed. West Indies batted for 109 overs in the final innings, the second longest they had batted in the fourth innings of a Test.
"It was a quality innings and I just mentioned that he batted really well in both the second and first innings," he said. "I think he showed a lot of maturity in both those innings and he spent some time and gave himself a chance to get a score. You could see the determination on his face and in his expressions and his body language was just very positive. Hopefully he can continue in this vein and we can lean on Darren Bravo in our batting.”
Also Read: Darren Bravo - a saviour away from home
Darren Bravo, despite a mediocre average at home, is one of West Indies' best batsman in Asia. He now has 5 hundreds in the sub-continent out of his total of 8 Test hundreds. His ability to rock back to the spinners and execute shots with right balance has been a key to his success in this part of the World. Bravo will be the leader in that batting line-up when the sides meet next for the second Test.
"One thing I am very proud of is the way the guys fought. They came good today and all the bowlers came up with a really good effort on a pitch that didn't give much assistance to them. I can't really fault the effort of the guys, it was a very, very good team effort. Unfortunately, we didn't get over the line and unfortunately we couldn't save the game but a hell of a lot of positives we can take from the game."
Holder was still at the crease when Bravo was dismissed but failed to take the Windies to safety with a tail consisting of Bishoo and Gabriel. He would have possibly been better off trying to attack after Bravo’s dismissal but he sought to defensive methods.