May 18, 2001

Mediocre Pakistan at Lord's

Mudassar Nazar
Mudassar Nazar
Photo © CricInfo

Pakistan went into this match with five pace bowlers expecting the ball to deviate sharply and to take advantage of a pitch, which had been under cover all day yesterday. In my opinion, playing both all-rounders, Razzaq and Azhar was a defensive ploy. Oddly, in recent series the selectors are forever trying to bolster Pakistan's fragile batting. Saqlain, on the other hand, would have provided Pakistan with much relished variety. No other side in the world could ever comprehend dropping such a world-class performer. I bet some of the Surrey members are mystified by this strange decision.

Waqar was very upbeat in his pre-match interview but strangely, the whole team seemed subdued in the morning session. Rashid Latif had a decent workout after a long stint away from the national team but he could have been more vocal and energetic to help boost-up his teammates and keep them on their toes. Right from the outset, Wasim Akram looked out of sorts. He never cocked his wrist properly and seemed unable to hit the seam consistently today. Apart from Azhar Mahmood, all the other bowlers were guilty of bowling short. They forgot that in England in May, one must pitch the ball up to the batsman to give it more distance to swing.

Waqar and Razzaq were steady but never looked menacing. Azhar Mahmood was the pick of the bowlers and benefited from bowling a tight line and pitching the ball up to the batsman. Shoaib bowled fast but bowled only three overs in his first spell, casting doubt over his match fitness. Under the same conditions at Lord's, Glen McGrath decimated the English batting in the last Ashes series.

It was important for Pakistan to make an early breakthrough, but Atherton was resolute and gritty and it was a surprise when he played down the wrong line in the end, to give Azhar a much-deserved second wicket. Trescothick has struck a rich vein of form all through the last few weeks of the new English season and was aggressive to put a lot of pressure on Pakistani bowlers by being positive.

Eventually, he played a loose shot against Razzaq's well pitched up ball and was snapped up at gully by Azhar. Vaughan batted like a seasoned professional but the Pakistanis furthered his case by bowling short outside off-stump, clearly his strong suit. Bowling to Vaughan, seemed lacking a game plan and if they had one, they did not stick to it. In the end it was pure luck and a good catch by Rashid Latif to bring his down fall.

Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe were determined and batted as though they knew their mission. Thorpe, who was Pakistan's nemesis last winter, looks set to haunt them in summer too. He is by far the best England batsman and the stroke, which brought his fifty, was so reminiscent of my old friend, Javed Miandad. Like Miandad, he is tenacious and has his own agenda in every match. The way he batted against our spinners last winter was a real eye opener for all of us. It took a lot of imagination from Waqar to prize him out. Nevertheless it was a brilliant innings and he may well have already done enough damage in this game.

Nasser Hussain was at his patient best. He survived a couple of close leg before decisions but he hung in there for his team's sake. He blocked our best bowler Azhar in the afternoon and prospered in the post-tea session with some help from our tiring bowlers.

While all is not lost, Pakistan needs to have a good day tomorrow otherwise they might be looking up at the gray skies to ease them out of their predicament. My honest view is their dilemma is self-inflected.

Pakistan's out fielding today, was at its worst. English batsmen were allowed to pick up singles at will and some of the balls that crossed the boundary were well within the reach of the fielders. Modern dives and slides seemed to be a thing of the past again.

If Pakistan team wants to recapture its glory days in England, I am afraid their work rate needs serious examination. Why were the tourists forced to bowl Younis Khan on the 1st day when they had five fast bowlers at their disposal? It does not make any sense to me. Does it to you?

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.