June 4, 2001

Celebrate not criticise - am over the moon with joy

Mudassar Nazar
Mudassar Nazar
Photo © CricInfo
What a test match! Although the last day's play was absorbing I had this uneasy feeling that it all might end-up in vain. England, already one up in the series never bothered to force the issue. Both teams were reluctant to grab the initiative. Pakistan conceded 85 brisk runs last night and didn't want England to score freely again. Wasim Akram operated with only two slip fielders at his disposal. Pakistan did have 370 runs on board and should have gone for the kill right from the beginning. I know England had dented their hopes last evening but today was another day. An early wicket would have made all the difference, instead Pakistan players just sat back and waited for things to happen.

Saqlain Mushtaq
Saqlain Mushtaq with an appeal against Trescothick but not out
Photo © CricInfo
Over the last decade, Mike Atherton has been like the rock of Gibraltar for England and most of their victories and rearguard actions been built around him. He is good against all fast bowlers and equally at home against spinners. He has made an immense contribution to English cricket. England will be in a sorry state when he and his old mate, Stewart decide to call it a day. Trescothick has certainly been revelation and very consistent ever since his debut. He is an ideal opening partner for Atherton. While Atherton is defensive and durable, Trescothick is very upright and aggressive. Faced with a barrage of bouncers last evening he remained fully composed, yet was eager to put all bad balls away. Like Atherton he is comfortable against spin bowlers and fast bowlers don't worry him either. Later in the day, he was caught at short leg but umpire Shepherd adjudged otherwise. I have a lot of respect for David Shepherd and do think he was a very competent umpire when he first came on the scene but recently I've seen him make too many blunders. In fact Pakistan team can consider themselves unlucky in the series because many of the close decisions have gone against them.

It took a Herculean effort from the captain to dislodge Mike Atherton. It was almost as if he'd rolled back the years. The ball that dismissed Atherton dipped in very late and even though Atherton played a defensive stroke was still unable to stop it from piercing his defense.

Michael Vaughan joined Trescothick and frustrated Pakistan for a long time. By this time it was evident England was not interested in a win. We should have attacked and pressurized Vaughan a lot more than we did. In this short career he has already given his team a lot more stability than his predecessor, Graham Hick. Razzaq eventually got the better of him after lunch, but by this time he had faced 72 deliveries and wasted important time.

Thorpe hung around for a long time as well. He has had a wonderful year and the Aussies who will soon confront him must regard him as one of their main targets.

Thorpe and Waqar
Thorpe is bowled by Waqar Younis in the second innings
Photo © CricInfo
Waqar Younis is a mentally a tough cricketer. He bowled a couple of inspired spells today and led his team from the front. He dismissed Thorpe with the second new ball that at first started to shape in and then held its line. Thorpe thought he had it covered only to hear the death rattle behind him. Waqar took himself off after dismissing Thorpe and brought Saqlain on, hoping the hard new ball will help his spinner.

In the meantime Wasim had accounted for Trescothick with a rising delivery on the leg side. Rashid Latif took a fine tumbling catch down the leg side. Saqlain at last took his first wicket of the innings when he trapped Stewart right in front of his stumps. Pakistan team by this time had a sniff of an improbable win. There is nobody more dangerous in this situation than Wasim and Waqar. Wasim charged in and found Nick Knight right in front of his stumps. Umpire Eddie Nicholls did not hesitate to lift his finger but the replay showed it was a big no-ball. Cynics might say it was Pakistan's turn to benefit from poor decisions now, as there were several more over-steppings that went unseen.

Saqlain was bubbling now and his every ball looked deadly. He bowled a short ball to Ian Ward who trying to hit it too hard only managed to nick it to Rashid Latif. Andy Caddick on the very next ball was all at sea, playing down the wrong line bowled neck and crop.

Saqlain Mushtaq
Saqlain is about to be swamped after getting Caddick out
Photo © CricInfo
Saqlain had toiled hard all day long without any notable success was now turning his marathon spell into a most productive one. He just showed what a great bowler he is. Pressure was on him to produce the goods and he did Pakistan proud. Cork and Gough had survived some anxious moments and as the overs ticked down, Pakistan team started looking edgy. Saqlain bowled a straight ball and Cork was adjudged leg before but on replay, he had once again overstepped the front crease.

From then onwards I was pretty sure Pakistan would be victorious today. Gough had smashed Waqar for a couple of boundaries but going for glory again, was brilliantly caught by substitute Imran Nazir.

Great win for Pakistan but I must say, they could have made it easier on themselves by selecting a more balanced side. Anyway, its time to celebrate, not criticise. Waqar and his men deserved this victory and I for one, am over the moon with joy. Good luck to Pakistan for the One-Day competition that follows.

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.