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August 26, 2003
Pakistan might have won the first Test at Karachi, but all the gains went to Bangladesh. To push Pakistan into the fifth day was an excellent effort on their part, especially after their hapless showing of the last few months. Pakistan's performance, on the other hand, left a lot to be desired.
Bangladesh batted with a new-found grit and determination, especially in the second innings. Shoaib Akhtar was not allowed to rip through the batting order, and Rajin Saleh and Habibul Bashar handled his extreme pace with remarkable ease. Saleh, the talk of the town on his debut, is a player to watch out for - he has a good technique and can stay at the crease for long periods of time without getting flustered.
Dav Whatmore, who took over as coach just before Bangladesh's series against Australia, has already made an impact on his side. Whatmore was instrumental in converting one Asian minnow into a top team - he coached Sri Lanka to the 1996 World Cup. Bangladesh might be a different ballgame, as he recently explained in an exclusive interview to Wisden CricInfo, but he has begun well.
One of Whatmore's biggest worries will be the bowling. Mashrafe Mortaza troubled the Pakistani batsman and Mohammad Rafique was economical, but the rest lacked penetration. Bangladesh do not yet have the ability to take 20 wickets in a Test, and Khaled Mahmud hardly leads by example. He doubled his tally of Test wickets in this game, but his bowling average still stands at 244. The cricket academies back home need to breed genuine pace bowlers - and a quality legspinner would do quite nicely as well.
Pakistan do not have much cause for cheer. Their fielding was atrocious - a major reason for Pakistan's lack of success in the longer version of the game is their inability to hang on to chances in the slips. The bowlers, as a result, concentrate on getting batsmen out bowled or lbw and are taken for runs when they drift onto the pads. This Test was no exception, as Taufeeq Umar dropped a sitter in the first innings and Yasir Hameed bungled a simple chance offered by Habibul Bashar in the second. Bashar was then on zero - he went on to make 108.
The batting, with the exception of Yasir Hameed's centuries, was ordinary. The shot selection by Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar was awful. Pakistan must sort out its opening combination quickly, as neither Hafeez nor Taufeeq seem to possess the technique to succeed against better teams. The Bangladesh attack was modest, yet Pakistan managed just 346 in the first innings on a docile pitch.
The only positive to come out for Pakistan was the impressive performance of 25-year old Hameed. He had shown a glimpse of his talent in the one-day internationals that preceded this Test, but had failed to convert any of his starts. He showed great composure and concentration and worked his way to two centuries on debut, only the second player to achieve that feat. However, it would be too early to say that Pakistan's worries over the crucial No. 3 slot are over. Pakistan has a penchant for discarding players after the odd appearance in a Test match, and Hameed will have to prove himself against better teams.
The pitch at Karachi was pathetic. Pakistan's strength lies in its pace attack, and the pitches prepared for a home series should be lively, with an even covering of grass. The Karachi pitch offered no assistance to Pakistan's fast bowlers, and neutralised the home advantage they had. It may not matter against Bangladesh - it will against better teams.
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?