June 2, 2001

Ample proof test cricket is a fascinating affair

Mudassar Nazar
Mudassar Nazar
Photo © CricInfo
Test cricket is a fascinating affair and this test match is ample proof. Pakistan players must have made some serious pledges last night but within 45 minutes of this morning's play, they looked in a sorry state. It's easy to talk a good game but damn difficult when you come to execute it. Plan must have been to restrict English batsmen's free scoring for the first 18 overs and then declare an all out war with the second new ball.

Saqlain sent down only three overs in the morning and fell well short of requirements. Waqar too, was unsuccessful from the other end even though the ball was reverse swinging. In forty-five minutes Pakistan used up five bowlers and the plan by this time was in tatters.

Vaughan & Thorpe
Michael Vaughan is congratulated by Thorpe on his first test century
Photo © CricInfo
In the meantime, Thorpe and Vaughan had completed their well-deserved centuries. Thorpe in rich vein of form was at times almost making fun of Pakistan bowlers and Vaughan once again was composed and ready to pounce on any gift the Pakistani's offered him. Despite all of this, Pakistan was given a tremendous reprieve. Thorpe blocked a ball from Wasim and set-off for a run which was insane. Wasim pounced on the ball in his follow-through and threw down the stumps in an instant. From then onwards it was an inspired performance from Pakistan bowlers.

Wasim and Waqar remained aggressive throughout the day. They bowled their hearts out for the Pakistan team. Five years ago, with this kind of effort, they would have sentenced any team in the world to the dungeons.

Post lunch session was always going to be crucial. Stewart is at his best on a pitch like this. Waqar had earlier out-thought Vaughan with a cleverly disguised bouncer and after only fifteen overs the 'new' ball had started to reverse swing. Wasim looked at his most offensive in this series and deserved much better figures in the end. Anyway, his spell must have inspired Razzaq who at last, bowled a tight and searching line.

Waqar Younis & Rashid Latif
Waqar Younis and Rahid Latif celebrate the runout of Ian Ward
Photo © AFP
They say, 'never run on a misfield'! Ian Ward did just that, paying no heed to this saying and was run out by an alert Azhar Mahmood. At this time, England was surely destined for a total of above 500 runs. You can say Razzaq's spell was commendable. But Stewart played a leading hand in conceding a first innings lead to Pakistan. Inexplicably, he kept exposing his lower order batsmen to the rampant Pakistan bowlers who gleefully accepted such gentle offerings. Pakistan was thus able to bowl England out with considerable ease.

Andy Caddick
Andy Caddick bowling to Inzamam-ul-Haq
Photo © CricInfo
Saeed and Razzaq started off the Pakistan innings at a brisk pace but the left-hander was decidedly uneasy against Darren Gough and the tough demand confronting him as the senior opener. I'd admit anytime, I was a player of limited ability but with plenty of resolution and often wish I had the natural ability of players like Saeed Anwar. It really irks me when they concede to the opposition so tamely. Gough peppered Saeed with a few rising deliveries which was nothing out of the ordinary. Saeed coped with this barrage miserably and did not seem to be on the same planet as rest of his team. At the end, his demise though expected was degrading. He guided a simple catch to Thorpe at about fifth slip and walked off the pitch mighty relieved. Pakistan players and Caddick had been at loggerheads this entire match and more words were exchanged when he got in to bat earlier. Perhaps upset or unnerved by it when he came on to bowl in the second innings, he was hit around by Razzaq and taken off quickly. Darren Gough, I am afraid is made of other stuff. He came charging in and relaying a message that we are not down and out in this game. I simply admire his spirit.

Razzaq buoyed up by his productive bowling spell was eager to get on top of the England bowling. His on drives off Caddick were immaculate and a six over mid-wicket was of some caliber. He is predominantly a front foot player and must learn to deal with or avoid a short-pitched ball. You are playing with fire if you decide to hook and pull and your feet are not in perfect position to execute this most difficult stroke. Hoggard, aided by his senior bowlers, preyed on Razzaq's lack of understanding.

Faisal, I am afraid was incessantly peppered with short balls. He was full of resolution but at international level this is not enough. By persisting with this formula Caddick was able to send Faisal packing to the pavilion. This boy does need to learn how to cope with short balls as well if he wants to bat high in the order.

Inzamam & Youhana played for the end of the third day's play. Although they were intact at the end but with two days remaining, there is a lot left to play for in this test match. While England are striving hard to gain firm footing, Waqar and his men have to play very poorly to lose this initiative. Let us hope they don't lose any ground and resolve to go for a win.

Ed: Mudassar Nazar is a veteran of 76 tests and 122 ODIs. He is currently the chief coach of Pakistan's National and Regional Cricket Academies. In view of the overwhelming interest of users in CricInfo's articles, we have invited him to write for us.