England v Pakistan, 2nd npower Test, Edgbaston, 4th day August 9, 2010

Pakistan's bowlers need more support

Pakistan know exactly where their frailties lie. Salman Butt must surely be tired of explaining how inept batting and fielding remain Pakistan's weak links

Pakistan know exactly where their frailties lie. Yet all summer they have been falling over the same hurdles and repeating the same mistakes and Salman Butt must surely be tired of explaining how inept batting and fielding remain Pakistan's weak links. Butt knows only too well that Pakistan will need to work tirelessly on those two fronts to not only avoid losing this series but also to arrest their slide down the Test pecking order.

Look at these numbers: in the four Tests Pakistan have played so far on this England trip (including the two-match series against Australia in July), their batsmen have notched up seven half-centuries. England already have two centurions and four men sharing five fifties. Not a single Pakistani has yet reached three figures. Butt's 92 at Lord's remains the highest so far, but against England Pakistan's best batsman of 2010 has scores of 1, 8, 7 and 0 in the two Tests played.

If Pakistan's specialist batsmen are thinking of relaxing for the next week before the third Test at The Oval they will do well to consider this: only three tourists have managed to get a half-century against England in Nottingham and Trent Bridge. One was a debutant, one was playing his first Test of the series and the other will play no further part. If any further salt needs to be rubbed in the top order's wounds, one of them is a lower-order batsman while the other two are tailenders.

Zulqarnain Haider played the innings of the Edgbaston Test with his resolute 88, and in one innings became Pakistan's leading run-scorer in the series so far. One run behind him is Umar Gul, whose belligerent 65 saved Pakistan from following on at Trent Bridge. In the dire straits in which Pakistan's batting finds itself at the moment Gul's unavailability for at least the next three weeks (torn hamstring) sounds like torture.

The third man to get a fifty was Saeed Ajmal, who replaced Danish Kaneria after Pakistan's most experienced Test player was dropped for lack of form after the Nottingham defeat. Ajmal received several blows to the chest and hurt his right elbow, but boldly faced down the short-pitched barrage from the bamboo-tall pair of Stuart Broad and Steve Finn to cap his maiden five-for with his first half-century.

With the batting in the doldrums, the two Mohammads - Asif and Amir - continue to give their side a chance with their canny, incisive mode of attack. Like a supercomputer the A-pair has a rich vault of bowling intelligence stored in their brains, and this they have utilised efficiently to find different ways of working out England's batsmen. But they are surely on the verge of losing their patience if Pakistan's woeful fielders do not pull their socks up soon and start holding catches.

On the first day of the second Test Pakistan dropped five manageable chances; the next day at least three more sitters were spilled. Today, including some half chances, the drops trickled up to five. It was the same in Nottingham where Kamran Akmal and Imran Farhat, at first slip, were the worst culprits.

"The guys themselves realise that we need 20 wickets to win a Test match and if we drop 14 catches in a Test match, that is more than half the wickets lost," an annoyed Butt said after today's defeat. "Being professional we need to account for the half chances."

Butt argued that no amount of specialist coaching or adoption of preparation methods from more proficient fielding teams would help Pakistan unless individuals took responsibility to attend to their own games in the field. Indeed, traditionally, Pakistan have always enjoyed batting and bowling but have never found an appetite for excellence in the field. That mode of thinking needs to be snuffed out sooner rather than later and Butt would do well give to assert his authority and issue ultimatums.

"We have concerns that I have already commented on and unless they are [addressed] - fielding and top-order batting - it will be hard for us [to win]," Butt insisted.

Butt said Pakistan's strenuous schedule of playing six Tests in seven weeks was already proving cumbersome. After the Trent Bridge loss, Waqar Younis, Pakistan's coach, had feared the workload was bound to add pressure on his fast bowlers and now with Gul ruled out of the remaining Tests, Pakistan's task has become that much harder.

"The itinerary was decided even before I was coming on this tour so I've got to contend with whatever time we have but whatever break we have we will make full use of it," Butt said. Asked if he would think of resting key players, Butt pointed out it wasn't such an easy task. "We will have a chat with the physio and trainer and see who can be rested. It is a break for the media but we will be busy all the days."

Butt, who was handed the captaincy in an abrupt fashion when Shahid Afridi pressed the eject button after the Lord's defeat against Australia last month, has been modest in his confessions about the team's grey areas. Though he has been around for seven years, his own career has not run a steady path and has already included numerous comebacks. But he is willing to see things clearly and work closely with the think tank. Keeping that open stance has helped him to stay positive and he now is expectant that the arrival of Mohammad Yousuf into the squad, despite the pair's past differences, could in fact help Pakistan to regroup and bounce back in the final two Tests of the England series.

"We hope he gets runs for the side. We hope his experience would prove invaluable for the team and I hope the youngsters can learn from him whatever they can," Butt said of his senior. Yousuf is bound to play the two-day practice match against Worcester this weekend and Butt said he is a certainty for the final two Tests of the tour, fitness permitting.

Yet, no amount of Mohammads can save Pakistan from falling apart unless every player is willing to work hard, stay mentally strong and enjoy their cricket.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Umar on August 10, 2010, 19:21 GMT

    Surely, The criteria of team selection is based on favoritism and political motivation. Abdul Razzaq has saved so many test matches with his bat and more then handy with ball, is much better then shoaib malik, Who is in team for nothing. same is with Asim kamal and Faisal Iqbal. Also younis Khan who's average is more then 50, had a run feast last time when pak toured to england. Offcourse Ijaz Butt is a just a Joke. He has destroyed Pak Cricket,and broken the hearts of its millions of fans.

  • Jay on August 10, 2010, 17:42 GMT

    Pakistan has to play cricket. All this time, they have been playing "circus" in the name of Cricket. For a neutral fan, it's highly entertaining though. Younus or Yousuf won't be able to change things drastically. I can't wait for the next circus move/resignation/sacking/retirement etc. etc. as it is sooooooo much fun to watch.

    Keep it up Pakistan.

  • Dummy4 on August 10, 2010, 16:35 GMT

    @ way_too_cool- hey, if u had stop laughing at Pakistan, spare some time out for ur indian team, u ll not stop laughing then.. i heard they folded for 88.. ohh, now even the batting is failing against ordinary nz.. now, at least, the world will be laughing out on india, ranked 2nd, efforts nil.. enjoy ur average bowlers

  • khurram on August 10, 2010, 15:58 GMT

    hey way too cool keep some laughing stock for today's match against kiwis who have just rocked through ur over rated jerk indian team and guess by wat margin 200 runs yes guys thats true indians have followed on in odi.now i m sure u must be thinking for borrowing umar gul to atleast avoid follow on (i.e. in odi!!!!!!) but u know we r so generous (not in giving runs while bowling like wat indian bowling attack is doing) but unfortunately gul is out due to injury

  • Hassan on August 10, 2010, 15:32 GMT

    Pity the Indians, their famous batting lineup has collapsed against the mediocre New Zealand bowling lineup (no Vettori or Bond) on a track that is offering just a little bit of extra bounce, but no lateral movement whatsoever. I can bet that the Indians cannot score anything more than the Pakistanis are scoring on the bowler friendly tracks in England and to top that, they have the worst bowling attack in the world. They boast the No.1 ranking only due to the custom ordered batting pitches they play on, even in countries like Australia they get batting wickets specially made for them (Eg. Perth pitch on which India won by an innings because the ball wasn't bouncing over knee high).

    I have a suggestion for Indian fans, and that is to stop worrying about Pakistan and start worrying about their own team, because they do not have any bench strength in neither batting nor bowling, atleast we have such strong bowling, I am sure we will find come good young batsmen too in the near future.

  • Powderdubdub on August 10, 2010, 14:47 GMT

    Quite frankly its more of a case of Pakistan losing the match than England winning it. We all saw on the sunday afternoon, a slight resistance from Zulqarnan and Saeed Ajamal and Stuart Broad and Co. lost the plot. This is not a real Pakistan team but a team selected without considering merit. Is there no deserving player from Karachi?, being the winner of Quaid Azam Trophy. How can you give repeated chances to Salman Butt, Imran Farhat, and Shoab Malik, they all have remakably low test averages. The Akmals should have been replaced two tests ago. The Trouble is even the selectors have no powers or have no brains. Pleading for extra time will gain nothing with this squad, we need to try others. Zaheer Abbas, Mushtaq, Hanif, Miandad, Yusuf, Yunus and Inzi did not need dozens of innings to make their mark.

  • Dummy4 on August 10, 2010, 14:09 GMT

    Dont understand why younus was banned at first place. Because he was not present during that ill fated test series in australia. He just played in one days. In fact yousuf only asked for his selection. Why should pakistani nation be punished for individual likes and dislikes of ijaz butt? Is he so powerful?is he bigger than nation? Why cant he be thrown out

  • mohammad on August 10, 2010, 13:31 GMT

    AMIR,ASIF, please do a favor to Pakistan Cricket. Tell the press that you do not want to play until the selection committee does not present you 5 quality test batsmen. Here are the names now. YASIR, YUSUF,YOUNUS, FUAD ALAM, RAZZAQ, ASIM KAMAL. What's the point ruining your career with those headless management? Just see what all the commentators are saying, see the sentiment of the supporters, see the blogs. If the selectors/management had minimum sense and decency, they would not play this farcical test matches. They got an opportunity to improve Pak cricket standard in the world, they have ruined that completely.

  • Dummy4 on August 10, 2010, 11:36 GMT

    No amount of changes will help pakistan as the sellection was wrong in the first place. There is a lot of dirty Politics and until that is not cleared things are not going to change.

    People like Fawad Alam and Razzak should have been integral part of this side as Razzak is a seasoned player and would have given ideal support to Amir and asif and would have been handy with the bat.

  • IFTIKHAR on August 10, 2010, 10:37 GMT

    I have admiration for your expert hindsight Nagraj and your logic is very sound.Looking at the squads for the Tests and Twenty20 you will realise that Razzaq,Fawad and Shazaib should be in the Test squad.I have seen enough of Farahat,Azhar,Amin and Malik to know they can't handle pace; weaving and ducking from balls chest high that are asking to be pulled or hooked shows how sub-standard they are.Salman Butt hasn't performed either and the truth is we have virtually no batsmen of Test standard.Umar Akmal is a one-day player but if he has the willingness,which i doubt,to work hard he can develop his game.Don't expect too much from Yousuf because we Asians don't easily forgive and forget! As to the fielding i suspect most of the players are too lazy to practise hard and are not fully fit.Catches win matches and practise make perfect.The coach should also ask the batsmen to practise against the short stuff in the nets never mind if they get bruised in the process!

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