May 30, 2001

What a strange feeling - it's the last test

Mudassar Nazar
Mudassar Nazar
Photo © CricInfo
I do feel it's strange - we are playing only the 2nd Test but it will spell the end of the series! Nevertheless, I do hope the Pakistan Team is better mentally prepared for this game than the 1st at Lord's.

Faisal Iqbal
Faisal Iqbal
Photo © CricInfo
In between the Tests they have done very little physically, to improve their standard of play. In two practice games, barring Saleem Elahi and Faisal Iqbal not many batsmen have spent much time at the crease. Saeed Anwar who failed in both the innings at Lord's did not even participate in any of the games. In my whole professional career I have never seen a specialist batsman miss as many games as Saeed Anwar has. In fact, during all his playing career he's been plagued by injuries and illness. The only bonus is, he always performs better after a lay-off. Maybe he's superstitious and misses out on games at will.

To win at Old Trafford, Pakistan needs Saeed Anwar to be at his best because I fear we are putting a lot of pressure on Inzamam. In reality, I believe all the specialist batsmen should make a sustained effort to pull Pakistan out of the mire. It won't be an easy task but nothing is impossible in cricket. All we need to do is to cast our mind back at the recently concluded series between India and Australia. We need all our senior players to set an example to our junior players.

Talking about senior players, I hope Wasim has put the nightmare of the last test match well behind him and with renewed vigour, is looking forward to the game at Old Trafford. He has some very fond memories of this ground and I hope playing in front of Lancastrians will spur him to help win this test match for his country.

Waqar Younis will need to Captain well in this match because his handling of five fast bowlers could have been better in the last one. For example, he could have unleashed Shoaib Akhtar at the tail-end batsmen rather than bowling himself and Wasim. He should remember when at his peak how quickly he used to dispose off the lower order batsmen with his lethal yorkers.

Azhar came into the Lord's test after a long lay-off and bowled well but was given a two-hour spell which stiffened him up for the evening session and was not as productive.

There is talk about Razzaq opening the batting for Pakistan. I have no problem with it as long as it is only a short-term policy. He has a strong defence and if encouraged can attack the new ball bowlers as well. My only problem would be if he plays a major innings for Pakistan, it would limit his bowling later in the game. In the long run Pakistan needs him to take three or four wickets in every game.

Manchester's inclement weather is more than well publicised. In one whole month, Lancashire has managed to play only one one-day game at home. The pitch has been under cover for most of the month so we can only guess how it's going to behave. After signing-up Wasim Akram in 1988 Lancashire started preparing very dry pitches to help Wasim achieve reverse swing. The square was also left extremely dry so that the ball would rough up very quickly. It also meant the pitch would be conducive for spin and this is the main reason why Muralitharan is employed by Lancashire County for this season.

I have played three games at Old Trafford in the last four years and on each occasion the ball turned sharply, almost from the start. I expect Saqlain to play and will not be surprised if Mushtaq Ahmed is also in contention. Even though it has rained a lot during the last month in Manchester and the square at Old Trafford will be green, I still feel it is hard to change the nature of the pitch.

Therefore, it should help seam as well as spin but I cannot imagine Pakistan playing an extra spinner at the expense of a batsman when even against a weakened Leicester, they scored only 294 runs in their only innings.

Faisal Iqbal scored runs in New Zealand and has performed well in England so far. He deserves his chance in the Team and, providing he is careful against Caddick at the start of his innings, he should prosper and help Pakistan's more aggressive batsmen by occupying one end. Inzamam, Yousuf Youhana and Younis Khan desperately need Pakistani openers to give them a solid start so that they can pile up enough runs to put English batsmen under pressure.

I hope Shoaib Akhtar is back to his full fitness as I think he poses the biggest threat to England. But, in order to bowl England out twice in this match he requires lots of extra support from Wasim and Waqar. Both are coming towards the end of their glittering careers but are still capable of outperforming most bowlers in the world.

Let's hope both of them have a better game this time.

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.