November 21, 1999

Pakistani batting gets back into form

A Jalil

Hobart, Nov 20: It was a day for batting to flourish and the Bellerive pitch facilitated that enough for Pakistan to put themselves in command of this Test.

They needed a couple of big innings and that they got with Inzamam-ul-Haq leading the way with a flawless century. All too often Pakistan's batsmen have let themselves down when concentration and patience were the virtues to be displayed. Today they built an innings, playing entertaining cricket and yet not being overly flamboyant which has been their downfall time and again.

With the bowlers having done their bit on the previous day, this was the only opportunity that Pakistan had of cornering Australia by setting a daunting target for them in the last innings of the match. Trailing by a Test and just one more to play next week in Perth, Pakistan could not afford to slacken. For once their intention was clear and they stuck to the task with a purpose from the start of the day.

Nightwatchman, Saqlain Mushtaq gave his support for over an hour this morning while Saeed Anwar picked up runs. It was looking good for Pakistan on 100 for 1 just before Shane Warne claimed the first of his three victims today. The leg spinner then struck again before lunch to remove Anwar with a ball which turned prodigiously from the rough of the bowlers' footmark, coming into the left-hander and knocking back the leg stump. Warne had taken 2 for 29 this morning but there wasn't much more to come his way.

Ijaz Ahmad chose the right time to get the runs that he needed to justify his presence in the Test side. He is a fine batsman but so often he gives up his wicket, batting in a cavalier manner that when he does score heavily, it seems to be a bonus to his team. along with Inzamam he set out to build the innings when, with the dismissal of anwar it was beginning to flag.

It was most attractive cricket in the hour after lunch when 66 runs were added with Ijaz and Inzamam having got the measure of the Australian bowling and enjoying their time in the middle, batting in conditions a little alien to Hobart in mid-November, it was warm and not a cloud in sight. they scored freely but took no risks during that period. Australia got their long awaited breakthrough with Ijaz's wicket. It had been an excellent innings, ending just eighteen short of a well deserved hundred.

Unlike the first innings, neither he nor Inzamam allowed themselves to be pinned down by Australia's bowlers. they had then brought about their own downfall with poorly executed shots. This time there was confidence and an apparent determination to succeed on their part.With Ijaz's departure, Pakistan were 258 for 4. Inzamam kept going with the same authority that he had established over the bowling and by close of play he had guided his other partners, Azhar Mahmood, in particular, in taking Pakistan to 7 for 351. It is an overall lead of 327 which, Inzamam, with the help of the remaining wickets is very likely to substantially increase tomorrow.

The pressure that the enormous lead will put on Australia, in the face of Pakistan's current bowling form, will in all probability, be enough to make them wilt