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Stubborn Hope helps West Indies increase lead

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados:  Shai Hope anchored the West Indies second innings resistance with a patient, unbeaten 68 in lifting the home side to 197 for four – a lead of 116 runs – at tea on the fourth day of the second Test against Pakistan at Kensington Oval in Barbados on Wednesday.

Belying a mediocre record in eight previous matches, Hope battled with admirable patience, discipline and skill for almost four hours in negotiating the threat of the tourists’ bowlers, especially leg-spinner Yasir Shah exploiting the variable bounce and sharp turn of a deteriorating pitch.

He resumes in the final session with Vishaul Singh (18 not out), the left-hander also under considerable scrutiny after three previous failures since his debut in the first Test of the series in Jamaica.

With more and more questions being asked about his continued presence in the regional side given a paltry average of 15.40 and a topscore of 41 prior to this innings, Hope went a long way in responding to the critics in a situation where the West Indies were always likely to capitulate.

He came to the crease after Pakistan struck an early blow when the West Indies resumed at 40 for one, Mohammad Amir bowling Shimron Hetmyer before the left-hander could add to his overnight score of 22.

Kraigg Brathwaite continued to bat resolutely in partnership with Hope, the pair putting on 56 for the third wicket despite the varying challenges posed by the tourists’ combination of pace and wrist-spin.

It was Shah, the more experienced of the specialist slow bowlers, who provided the breakthrough when he removed the obdurate Brathwaite for 43.

Bowling round the wicket and seeking to exploit the rough areas outside the right-hander’s leg-stump, Shah managed to get a delivery to bounce and turn sharply to take the shoulder of the bat for Younis Khan to pull in his fourth catch of the match diving to his right at slip.

Fresh from a century in the first innings, Roston Chase proved an able partner to Hope for the rest of the morning and then deep into the afternoon session, their fourth-wicket stand producing 58 invaluable runs when Chase was deceived by a flighted Shah delivery to be caught-and-bowled for 23.

Pakistan are yet to win a Test match at Kensington Oval in six previous attempts dating back to 1958 and victory here will also earn them a Test series triumph in the Caribbean for the first time ever ahead of the final Test in Dominica in a week’s time.

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