May 19, 2001

Bowl short, short and short! Not in England, you can't

Mudassar Nazar
Mudassar Nazar
Photo © CricInfo
Short, short and short again! This was the Pakistan team's approach today. Wasim started the day with 7 bouncers at the night watchman and having unsettled the youngster had him caught at first slip by Inzamam. Well, I thought Pakistan were on their way to make amends for the second day's play. To say I was dismayed is an understatement. Both Wasim and Waqar lost control of the morning session by bowling well short of length, which helped Alec Stewart to settle down. He treated all Pakistani bowlers with complete disdain.

Shoaib Akhtar looked extremely stiff for his first two overs but was soon back to his normal pace and at times bowled very very quick. This test match will do him a world of good and by the next test match he should be fit enough to bowl England out on his own. He hit Nasser Hussain a painful blow on his thumb and soon after, Azhar Mahmood, by virtue of bowling a tight line, had Nasser caught behind. It was a typical captain's innings.

Nasser favours his right hand when batting and often is in discomfort if there is abnormal bounce off the pitch. Nevertheless, it was his partnership with Graham Thorpe, which put England in a commanding position. Alec Stewart played a breezy knock and just when he looked set to demolish Pakistan, Shoaib Akhtar, deceived him with a peach of a slower ball - note once again, the ball was pitched up to the batsman.

Ian Ward the debutant looks a carbon copy of Graham Thorpe and played a very important knock for his team. Nothing flustered his composure and it was only when he was stranded at the crease, with last man Darren Gough, that he tried to slog Waqar and gave his wicket away.

Pakistan's ground fielding once again was sloppy and body language of some of the players made me feel very uneasy. Azhar and Shoaib, understandably, looked very stiff in the morning but I can put up with that because they have come back into the team after a long lay-off. There is absolutely no excuse for the other guilty players.

In the end the Pakistanis did well to restrict England to under 400. Azhar bowled his heart out for Pakistan and gave an apt lesson to his fellow bowlers on how to bowl on this pitch.

Alas, all the other bowlers in the team have so far had a bad game. You can forgive Shoaib but there is no allowance for the rest of them. Wasim will be the first man to admit he has not done any justice to his talent in this game, and sooner he recovers from this nightmare the better it is for the team. Waqar was at best, just steady, whereas, I detect an alarming decline in Razzaq's test match bowling. I only hope this decline is not terminal as he is one of our most valuable assets. Maybe we should look to rest him for a couple of months at the conclusion of this series.

While the Pakistanis were bowling bouncer after bouncer I was one hundred percent sure the English bowlers' line of attack was going to be different. It indeed was. Saleem Elahi, like most Pakistanis, plays away from his body and in England, will always be easy prey unless he changes his style of batting. It did not take long for English bowlers to dent the Pakistani batting.

Saleem Elahi was first to depart. He should have watched Mike Atherton on how he leaves the ball alone outside the off stamp and when he does play it he uses very soft hands. Instead, Saleem Elahi pushed at the ball and paid the penalty.

Saeed Anwar was very elegant, but at times he can be exasperating when he starts flashing his bat, away from his body. Even though he hit Darren Gough through the line for a couple of boundaries, Gough still persisted with his line, which paid dividends immediately.

Inzamam had to contend with a couple of nasty blows on his body. In the end Inzamam perished while trying to tackle adversity with aggression. He became Caddick's victim number two by forcing at a fullish delivery.

Razzaq who is technically correct and compact, tried his best to ward off crisis but was undone by Caddick who was at his lethal best in the afternoon. It was a just reward for him as he toiled manfully under unhelpful conditions in Pakistan last winter.

Enters the gifted young Younis Khan. What a breath of fresh air he is. He is by far the best fielder in the team and by some distance, the most talented player (Inzamam being the exception). Yousuf Youhana was calm and collected, refuting claims that he is out of form and together they are fighting to salvage the Pakistan team from brink of disaster.

Pakistan are a fair distance away from safety. But if anyone can guide the Pakistan team out of troubled waters then these two surely have all the necessary credentials.

Full marks to the England pacers who surely must have taught a lesson or two to their Pakistani counterparts as well as to the Pakistan coach on how to bowl in England in May.

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.