If only they'd start playing every game with this very spirit

Mudassar Nazar

May 31, 2001

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Mudassar Nazar
Mudassar Nazar
Photo © CricInfo
I had thought leaving Saqlain Mushtaq out of the first test was a bad mistake. Little did I realise that worse was to follow. How can you drop arguably the fastest bowler in the world from your team? This decision can be nothing short of a calamity. The Old Trafford pitch has a bit of grass on it and the ball is bound to reverse swing, provided the weather stays dry for the entire duration of the game. Alas! We will be without our fastest bowler who must dream of such conditions. I am sure Shoaib must be disappointed and fuming in the dressing room. I just cannot understand the wisdom behind his omission, especially after we played him at Lord's when only half fit.

Waqar elected to bat first and Pakistan raced to 86 before lunch, but they committed the cardinal sin of losing three wickets in that period. Darren Gough did not look at his best today and bowled far too many loose balls.

Saeed Anwar looked to attack and smashed a couple of early boundaries. The makeshift opener Razzaq seemed extremely apprehensive. He offered a simple catch to Atherton on the very first ball he faced, who surprisingly spilled it. There was nothing positive about Razzaq today. Perhaps the extra burden of opening the innings had played tricks in his mind. He half-heartedly prodded at a ball from Caddick and deflected it onto his stumps.

Young Faisal looked determined and played a couple of nice shots. His exit came as a shock to me. It was a soft dismissal. Gough, having been wayward and expensive, tried him with a short ball and instead of playing it close to his body with soft hands, he pushed hard at it and gave a simple catch to short leg.

Inzamam-ul-Haq
Inzamam-ul-Haq
Photo © CricInfo
Inzamam played some magnificent strokes. The straight drive, which brought him his 5000 test runs, was a beauty. While Inzamam was in prime form, Saeed started to look very fidgety. He was extremely uneasy against Mathew Hoggard, but it was Caddick who finally dismissed him. In Saeed's defence I would say that it was a good ball. It bounced and left him, and most batsmen would have struggled against it anyway.

In an adverse situation you need lady luck smiling at you. Inzamam nicked the first ball after lunch to Stewart but fortunately was a no-ball. And player's like Inzamam do not need a second chance. His innings was the best I've seen him play. He was simply in prime form. From the first ball he faced, he was swashbuckling, aggressive and tormenting the bowlers. Even though he lost Youhana straight after lunch, he never lost his grip on the game. Youhana chased a stock delivery from Caddick and was caught in the slips. Youhana is a key figure in our team and his poor form in this series is quite worrying.

Younis Khan
Younis Khan
Photo © CricInfo
What can I say about Younis Khan! This young man is destined to be one of the great players for Pakistan. I could never understand why Pakistani selectors were ignoring him in the home series against England. He has a good technique, is brilliant in the field and above all, scores his runs at a rapid rate, which gives your bowlers more time to bowl out the opposition. If we work hard on his approach to the game, we might convert him into one of the best number-three players in the game. He was immensely unlucky to get out just before tea. Padding up to an innocuous delivery from Hoggard, he was adjudged leg before wicket. Cricket is glorious, but can be unforgiving and cruel. Younis deserved a century in this game. I am sure he is going to score plenty of centuries for his country in future.

Inzamam finally played a tired looking stroke and was caught at cover point off Hoggard. I shall treasure his innings for the rest of my life. He has had a golden year and long it may continue.

Pakistan players have looked focussed and rejuvenated in this innings. So far in this game there has been a sense of purpose in their every stride. Sigh, if only they'd start playing every game with this very spirit!

England bowlers conceded a lot of boundaries but their spirit never flagged. Pakistan batsmen scored at a rapid rate but the bowlers never gave up and kept picking up wickets at important intervals.

Azhar Mahmood played a significant innings under the circumstances but, like all his predecessors, perished when he looked in complete command of the situation.

Because of the time lost in the morning, the post-lunch session was extended. England bowlers looked tired and devoid of direction in the evening, a mistake for which coach Duncan Fletcher will not let them go scot-free. There will be a postmortem to why Inzamam was allowed to score 82% of his runs on the leg side. Rashid also capitalized on their flagging spirit and played a gem of an innings later in the day.

Wasim Akram did not learn from the last test. His body weight remained on his back foot, resulting in his own downfall. The Pakistan batsmen scored their runs at a furious pace, giving themselves a chance to win this match. I don't think Nasser Hussain would have permitted Pakistan such freedom.

On an excellent batting pitch, Pakistan has posted an imposing score on the first day. Waqar Younis was totally vindicated in electing to bat first. Rashid Latif was nearly as good as Inzamam and Younis but perhaps not as imperious. Pitch has behaved in favour of the batsmen, yet the omission of Shoaib Akhtar might cost them the final glory.

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.

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