Mike Holmans August 10, 2010

Haider and Ajmal the bright spots

Some players are reportedly not very happy with the UDRS

That brilliant take from Zulqarnain Haider © Getty Images

Some players are reportedly not very happy with the UDRS. If he wasn't one of them before, I imagine Kamran Akmal will be joining their ranks any minute, when he realises that UDRS has probably killed his Test career.

Had Zulqarnain Haider not been reprieved by the UDRS in the second innings at Edgbaston, his king pair would have undermined any confidence in him as a batsman, and would have left him very nervous for the subsequent games even if the selectors continued to back him. Unless Haider did something important under those handicaps, Kamran could have seen his way open for a return to the national side.

As it was, Haider proceeded to play the classiest as well as the biggest innings by a Pakistani in the series so far. There were powerful drives, delicate strokes and sound defence. Given what else we've seen from Pakistan, Haider looks a perfectly credible No.4 or 5 in this team.

The runs he scored in partnership with the admirable Saeed Ajmal gave their team the ghost of a chance to win the game, a chance which Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott promptly sat on, but which also gave Haider another chance to show off his skills. A rank bad ball from Mohammad Asif flew high and wide over Trott's shoulder and though he was obviously unsighted, Haider leapt up and caught it, preventing four byes that it would have been grossly unfair for him to be debited with. It was a piece of high-class wicketkeeping to which Akmal could never even aspire, let alone achieve.

We know that nothing is beyond the PCB's selectors, but Haider's performances in the second innings should have sealed his spot for the next five years (unless it turns out that it was just a magic few hours which he never repeats).

Saeed Ajmal's performances will have also blighted Danish Kaneria's life without the help of the UDRS, although the legspinner at least has the consolation that there are occasions on which Pakistan will want to play two spinners and he ought to be first in the queue for such a spot given his previous record.

How good Ajmal is as a bowler is yet to truly emerge. He is clearly a pretty good offspinner and has a reasonable doosra (even if I'm deeply suspicious that the doosra can ever be a legal ball), and the England batsmen were clearly all at sea against him in the first innings. Before rushing to judgement, though, let us see what happens in the rest of the series when he is no longer a surprise novelty and England have a chance to work him out.

We can, though, make a judgement about his batting, which is extremely courageous. Not many tail-enders (oh, all right, lower-order batsmen) would have taken the short-pitched pummeling he received and made their maiden fifty into the bargain. It was a somewhat fortunate half-century, as Umar Gul's had been in the previous game, and it would almost certainly be a mistake to expect repeat performances on any regular basis, but it showed the kind of spirit which the top order sadly lacked. But it means that as a package, Ajmal offers much more than Danish Kaneria.

Without Haider and Ajmal, Pakistan would have been beaten out of sight, totally justifying my mishearing of Ramiz Raja talking (I thought) about Pakistan's “badding”. Because apart from some of the bowling of Mohammad Amir and Asif, none of what else Pakistan served up at Edgbaston could have been called “gooding”.