June 17, 2001

Oh golly, what's cricket coming to in England!

Mudassar Nazar
Mudassar Nazar
Photo © CricInfo
A more than satisfying performance by Pakistan was marred this evening by disorderly supporters and caused Alec Stewart to concede defeat, the 10th in a row. Oh golly, what's cricket coming to in England!

I had said before, Waqar would lead from the front and he has not let me down. It was definitely his day at Headingley. With this fantastic burst of 7 wickets, I do hope he has silenced his detractors, who'd been claiming this excellent pacer's days were over. Not for me though, I think he has at least two or three years of top level cricket still left in him.

Waqar Younis
Waqar Younis celebrates the wicket of Alec Stewart
Photo © AFP
The responsibility of leading as volatile an outfit as Pakistan seems to have added loads to his confidence and he looks fit too. For some, like Tendulkar, Ganguly, our own Inzamam and Saeed, to name a few, captaincy is a definite burden and loads them from performing at their best but for Waqar, it's an inspiration to perform immaculately.

A comprehensive win though it was, for me it still left a lot to be desired. Despite the inclusion of Fazl-e-Akbar, the team definitely missed another genuine fast bowler. Imagine Wasim Akram or Shoaib Akhtar bowling in tandem with Waqar at this very Headingley pitch, the England innings would not gone into the 46th over. I hope Wasim is fit soon, Australia lurk in the final.

I think Fazl-e-Akbar bowled well and to his capacity. I cannot expect anything more from someone who's been out of active cricket for a long time. At the same time, I believe Waqar should've opened the bowling with Abdur Razzaq. He is more experienced than Fazl and did prove very effective after opening the bowling along with Waqar at Lord's.

But as it was, England cruised along after Waqar's quota had expired and he left the field for a shower and change. I think stand-in captain Inzamam's introduction of Saqlain so early was not the greatest of moves. He should have persisted with Azhar, although he conceded runs in his first over.

Waqar Younis
Waqar Younis sends down a thunderbolt as Hollioake look on
Photo © AFP
This easing of pressure on a pacer friendly track, enabled Hollioake to settle in and with Gough playing the sheet anchor, led England out of a complete disaster. I am sure Pakistan missed an opportunity to bowl England out for one of their lowest totals in this form of the game.

With the pitch still playing some tricks, added with Pakistan's innate frailty in chasing runs, I had fears when Caddick and Gough, came out to defend 156. Believe me, I had shivers running down my spine at the thought of Afridi and Saeed swishing about on this wicket while facing up to this fearful duo.

Afridi did not allay my fears any, for he had no clue against the swing and seam. The inevitable was delayed for 9 overs until Gough produced an out-swinger and Afridi, deciding he'd had enough of these defensive shots, poked at it to be caught behind.

Saeed, on the other hand, looked in good nick until he got tempted and wafted a fine nick to Alec again. Some would argue umpire Kitchen had undone him but as far as I could see, he should have been out to a shot like that anyway. Saeed had to depart after playing some entertaining shots.

Abdur Razzaq
Abdur Razzaq drives bowler Ben Hollioake through mid off
Photo © CricInfo
Razzaq played beautifully and Youhana accomplished another sensible knock. With Razzaq playing shots and getting runs at one end, he had absolutely no need to hurry things up and that's exactly what he did, stuck in.

In the end, it was the crowd who stole the show by invading the pitch, injuring a steward and taking most of the charm out of the win. The sad part of it all is that the outrage in the media at the lack of proper security measures will take off the gloss of Waqar's performance.

This has happened for the second time, after that disruption at Edgbaston that held up the match for about 30 minutes, and should be a fair warning for the authorities to stop taking the crowds lightly. Beware, today there was only one 'known' injury, tomorrow there could be more and these are certainly not the kind of cricket fans I played in front of in England.

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.