June 3, 2001

Remember 1992 and 1996 - can the W's roll back the years?

Mudassar Nazar
Mudassar Nazar
Photo © CricInfo
Old Trafford was packed with cricket fans today, and why not? This test match has been a wonderful advertisement for test cricket. It's been full of drama and free scoring. People love to watch positive cricket and that's why most people cherish one-day cricket!

Inzamam and Youhana were sedate for the first twenty minutes. I liked their approach. Pakistan could ill afford a mini collapse at the start of play, as all three results were possible at that time.

Inzamam & Hoggard
Inzamam top edges Hoggard, much to the bowlers disgust
Photo © CricInfo
It was not long before Inzamam was in full stride. If Pakistan wins, this test match will certainly be recorded as Inzi's match in history. He looked a special player when he first started playing for Pakistan but I never realized one day he'd leave behind the likes of Zaheer Abbas and Majid Khan. He is a much better all round player than the former illustrious players. He butchers the spinners and is in a class of his own against pace bowlers. After hitting an all time low during the last tour of Australia he has recovered well and is in the process of rewriting Pakistan cricket history. He is certain to score over 7000 runs in test cricket and even Pakistan's greatest batsman (Javed Miandad) must be looking over his shoulder as his record might be overhauled too.

They say fortune favours the brave. Nick Knight is easily the best all round fielder in the England team. I have seen him take some stunning catches. He dropped three catches in this test match. Maybe Waqar's luck is changing.

Players like Inzamam do not need a second chance. Memories of this game will surely haunt Nick Knight. In the first innings Inzy scored 82% of his runs on leg side but today some of his strokes on the off side were simply regal. At times he just stood tall and delivered. After lunch, he disdainfully dispatched Caddick over square leg for six. But, it was a tired looking shot that brought his downfall. Favouring his right hand he tried to smash Hoggard only to mishit it to Trescothick at mid-wicket.

Soon after, unfortunate Youhana was given out caught in the slips when the ball had clearly hit only the tip of his helmet. Nevertheless, it was a gritty innings and perfect for the occasion. He'd made sure Pakistan did not lose early wickets and did not deter him to play second fiddle to Inzamam. Considering his form on the tour it was the best he could do for his team.

England is considered the headquarters of cricket. There is an instant recognition by cricket fans all over the world if you have performed well in England. Well, Younis Khan has certainly done well enough in two innings in England to convince cricket pundits that he will be a force to be reckoned with in future. It could have been better. He has been an unfortunate victim of two rank bad decisions in this series. Both times he had gotten an inside edge when he was adjudged lbw and incidentally, these were the only times he's failed in the two test matches.

England was very defensive today. The ball they used for most the day was soft and in tatters which distinctly meant they were trying to restrict Pakistan batsmen scoring quickly rather than bowling them out. Azhar missed a straight ball from Caddick. Instead of hitting it down the ground he played all around it.

Wasim Akram
Wasim Akram belts a ball from Caddick for 4
Photo © CricInfo
Rashid and Wasim were involved in a fruitful partnership. Wasim was belligerent from the start. He was aided by Caddick who had a change of heart and instead of bowling short at him kept presenting him with wide half volleys at a pace which at best was military medium. I must confess, both Caddick and Gough were below par today. Rashid, after a useful knock, was taken at slip. Wasim continued to apply the long handle but Pakistan should have declared once Rashid was out. It was sheer time wasting. Perhaps Pakistan camp conveniently forgot they were trailing in this series?

Gough brought one back to clean bowl Wasim and after some more time wastage and savage hitting, Hoggard finally had Saqlain caught by Stewart while trying to slog him out of Old Trafford.

Anyone who has read my preview about this test match would recall how much I wanted Shoaib Akhtar to play in this test match. Without him I thought Pakistan would struggle to bowl England out twice in the game.

Now, England may very well win this test match. They are without loss with all wickets intact, yet I think Pakistan should have declared as soon as Rashid was out. Why are we so scared of losing a test match? I would rather take a chance of coming home with rubber drawn, rather than a one nil defeat.

Saqlain Mushtaq
Saqlain appeals for a catch at silly point but the umpire says Atherton is not out
Photo © CricInfo
Azhar once again, did not bowl in the evening. Why can't we take hard decision and play specialists in their respective position rather than filling in the void. Players should be accountable and it is only possible if we give them a fair chance. Pakistan can still win or draw the game tomorrow. Atherton and Trescothick have given England a solid base but an early wicket can make all the difference.

Remember 1992 and 1996, only problem is people who won those games for Pakistan are now a little long in the tooth.

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.