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Kingston Live - Via Go-Jamaica's Web Cam atop the Gleaner Building, Down Town, Kingston

Down to the wire

By Tony Becca, Senior Sport Editor

West Indies pacer Reon King (right) and wicketkeeper Ridley Jacobs celebrate the dismissal of Pakistan's Yousuf Youhana. Youhana (second left) was trapped leg before for 42 by King.

ST. JOHNS, ANTIGUA: THE 2000 Cable & Wireless series between the West Indies and Pakistan enters its final day at the Antigua Recreation Ground today with the prospect of a thrilling finish.

At stumps on yesterday's fourth and penultimate day of the winner-take-all third and final Test, the scoreboard read, Pakistan 269 and 219, the West Indies 273 and 144 for four and with the home team looking another 72 runs with six wickets in hand - including determined captain James Adams who is not out on 15, the odds favour the Windies. Pakistan, however, blessed with a stroke of fortune just before rain ended the drama at 5.52 with 12.3 overs to go, are far from out of it.

In a contest during which the pendulum has swayed from one side to the other so often, in a battle in which neither team has retreated an inch, no one, not even those involved with the West Indies team and who believed at the start of the showdown that the Windies, blessed with a new fighting spirit, were ordained to win, were willing to take a bet at the end of the day's action.

Who will it be? In spite of what has gone before, and despite the memory of Wasim Akram's brilliance on the third morning when he shot down the home team during a fairy-tale spell in which he picked up six wickets for four runs in 27 deliveries, it should be the West Indies.

In fact, before what turned out to be the last delivery of the day, the West Indies appeared home and dry.

At that point, the West Indies were on 144 for three, Wavell Hinds, who blasted two sixes and smashed seven fours in a punishing innings of 63 off 129 deliveries, was in all his glory, and the Pakistani bowlers at his mercy.

After escaping on 60 when Mohammad Wasim dropped him at second slip off Akram, however, and with the rain on its way, the left-hander pulled at Akram and knocked the ball onto his stumps.

Hinds was in wonderful form, and so too the left-handed Shivnarine Chanderpaul who stroked a flashy 31 off 40 deliveries before he went back to pacer Abdur Razzaq and was leg before wicket.

Set a victory target of 219 off a minimum 152 overs but with Sherwin Campbell and Adrian Griffiths batting as if time was against them, the West Indies lost their first wicket at 16 in the seventh over when Campbell, on six, hooked Akram high to Yousuf Youhana at backward square-leg, and the second at 31 in the 11th over when Griffith, on 23 and batting like a man rolling the dice, hooked once too often at Akram and top-edged a catch to the nine-fingered Waqar Younis at long-leg.

In 58 minutes and 12 overs together, however, Hinds and Chanderpaul posted 53 for the third wicket and in a lovely assault on Akram and right-arm legspinner Mushtaq Ahmed, threatened to make the final day a mere formality before, to the disappointment of the gathering, umpire Doug Cowie of New Zealand sent away Chanderpaul whose four sparkling boundary strokes included a savage, cross-bat shot off Razzaq to long-on.

With Akram steaming in after his early success, Chanderpaul countered with two lovely shots - one to backward square-leg and on to thirdman, and when Mushtaq was introduced, Hinds chipped and drove high to long-on, went back and pulled for six over mid-wicket.

Two overs later, Hinds stretched his right foot down the pitch, drove sweetly through extra-cover, and out went the ace spinner after conceding 25 runs in four overs.

The coming of offspinners Saqlain, Pakistan's other master spinner, made no difference to Hinds, three front-foot drives through the offside raced to the boundary like bullets, and when, late in the day, Pakistan went to pacer Waqar Younis in their attempt to cut him down, the sound of bat hitting ball as he hooked and pulled for boundaries echoed around the ground like the crack of a whip.

Adams, the cautious captain with nothing but victory on his mind, was a perfect foil at the other end during their fourth-wicket of 60. It was as if he had said to his young partner, "you go on my son, I will stay with you".

Pakistan were happy that he did not. Although they did not surrender, while Hinds was there, they looked a beaten bunch. When he fell, the jubilation suggested that they believed they were back in the hunt.

As brilliantly as Hinds batted, he was not the only West Indies star yesterday. So too were wicketkeeper Ridley Jacobs and Adams in the field.

With Pakistan, resuming on 157 for five, losing overnight batsman Youhana for 42 on 162 for six, and depending on Razzaq to stretch their lead, Jacobs, in a moment of quick thinking, ran him out for zero to make it 163 for seven.

Saqlain, the night watchman, went back cut fast bowler Reon King, and with Hinds fielding brilliantly at backward point, the batman, after a grand mix-up, were in mid pitch and retreating when the ball was thrown to Jacobs. Instead of running out the tail-ender, however, Jacobs, in a brilliant piece of cricket, threw the ball to Franklyn Rose standing over the wicket at the bowler's end.

Adams' brilliance ended the innings when a dangerous looking Akram, pulled a short delivery from King, and the left-hander, diving to his right some 30 yards away at mid-wicket, came up with a brilliant one handed catch.

The quick thinking of Jacobs and the brilliance of Adams may well turn out to be important because of the runs probably saved.

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