June 6, 2001

This outfit has lots of potential to produce high-calibre cricket

Rameez Raja

Rameez Raja
Rameez Raja
Photo © PCB
It was most wonderful to see Pakistan come back from the brink and level the series at Old Trafford. Having been sent packing at Lord's inside three days, making things turn around would not have been easy. In the circumstances, it indeed was a tribute to the commitment and character of the Pakistan team to make a comeback in the manner that they did.

To me, it was proof positive that despite some setbacks in the recent past, this outfit has a lot of potential to produce high-calibre cricket and beat quality teams.

I believe the most refreshing thing about Pakistan was the way they approached this Test match. There was not an iota of self-doubt as Waqar Younis won the toss and elected to bat. And then its batting, revolving around Inzamam-ul-Haq, put the England pace attack to sword in a most enterprising style. Putting 370 runs on the board in a day's batting is no mean achievement, especially if it comes after an innings defeat, and the Pakistan dressing room must have breathed a sigh of relief at that.

Pakistan supporters
The Pakistani crowd show their colours at the Warwick Road End
Photo © CricInfo
When England batted, Graham Thorpe and Michael Vaughan both scored hundreds in a massive stand of 267 runs. The two had very nearly batted Pakistan out of the Test, when the visitors made their second comeback by grabbing the last eight wickets for the addition of a mere 75 runs. This bowling performance immensely displayed how desperate the Pakistani camp was to wrest the initiative back. What is more, that collapse must have sown quite a few germs of doubt, and that probably was why England were a bit over-cautious going after the target - one of the factors which eventually cost them the match.

Batting a second time, Inzamam again was absolutely unflappable. I have no doubt that at this point in time he is the best batsman in the world, and also the best that Pakistan has ever produced. His form with the bat for the last two years has been nothing short of phenomenal, and has taken his average spiraling close to 50. What is more important, like Javed Miandad he performs when it matters most - which is something you cannot say about many Pakistan batsmen.

Saeed Anwar
Saeed Anwar avoids a bouncer from Gough
Photo © CricInfo
Saeed Anwar's is a case in point. Anwar was really out of sorts in the Test series, but I believe he would find his touch in the one-dayers. Over the years, Anwar has been seen to be much more comfortable, having really mastered top level batting in the limited-overs form of the game.

Anyway, having made England collapse once, the Pakistan attack had this confidence that they could repeat the feat, and once they had seen the backs of Atherton and Trescothick, with Waqar adding the prized wicket of Thorpe immediately in the last session, England crumbled to relentless pressure, allowing Pakistan to fashion a famous victory.

A great morale-booster as it was for the Pakistan team, the win was really cherished by the large expatriate Pakistani community here. They have their much-wounded pride restored and their faith in their team stands rekindled. This should encourage the team a great deal in the triangular one-day series.

Even in the worst of times, Pakistan's performance in one-day cricket has been something to write home about. And I think that this latest turnaround in fortunes would have a reassuring effect. Since it's a different ball game, there would be some changes and exciting young talent such as Shahid Afridi, Imran Nazir and Shoaib Malik would find its way in the squad. Their presence would surely lift the fielding a great deal, and generally give the team a fresher, more robust look.

While Pakistan is all fired up for Thursday's opening NatWest Trophy game, England would be under pressure to reassess the situation. There would be more than enough cause to worry as regards class in their batting. With the Ashes round the corner, the two collapses must have served as a rather rude wake-up call. Let's see how quickly, if at all, they recover from that.

Ed: Rameez Raja is a former Pakistan opener and captain, a leading commentator on satellite channels and currently covering the England - Pakistan Series followed by the NatWest limited-overs triangular for Sky Television.