December 1, 2000

Late English collapse gives Pakistan hope of victory

A remarkable pattern seems to have been followed in the first three days of play in the second Test. England have dominated the first two sessions each day only for Pakistan to hit back strongly just before close of play.

While the first day saw the home team's batsmen take control in the final session, the next two days saw heir bowlers in command just before stumps, after struggling all day.

It all happened for Pakistan with ten minutes remaining of the scheduled time of play, although with the light good, the game went on for a further ten minutes.

The new ball was taken as late as the 118th over with England on 266 for five, and it changed the look of the England innings straightaway. Wasim Akram, having been brought on for the new ball, trapped Graham Thorpe lbw, in his second over.

It was a most important wicket for Pakistan as Thorpe, on 79 from 246 balls, was in fine form and once again had played a long innings, as he had done in the previous Test with a patient century. Today he again batted as required by the situation. He looked for runs from gaps in the field and rarely hit the big lofted shots.

He had batted for five-and-a-half-hours and gave the England innings the solidity it required. Having taken a quick wicket with the new ball, Pakistan struck twice again. Abdur Razzaq, in his second over had Graeme Hick hooking a catch to backward square leg.

Thorpe and Hick, having faced several bouncers with the new ball, were both dismissed on the total of 274 and one run 1ater, Razzaq had Ashley Giles taken low at second slip. He had taken two wickets in four balls having conceded just one run.

England's innings, which was looking good in the second session of play on 203 for three had rapidly been reduced to 275 for eight. At stumps England were 282 for eight, trailing by 34 on the first innings.

Earlier, in a mainly uneventful third morning, England, having resumed on the overnight score of 110 for three, progressed at a slow pace with Thorpe and Ian Salisbury intent on keeping their wickets intact.

Salisbury, who was dropped by the wicket-keeper shortly before lunch with the total on 171 for three, was fortunate to survive a stumping off Saqlain Mushtaq when his foot appeared to be on the crease and not inside it.

But the bigger escape came earlier with the total on 134 for three, when Thorpe, on 12, clearly edged the ball on to his pad and Moin Khan, behind the stumps, took the catch at the second attempt. Umpire Aslam gave him not out. Once again the unlucky bowler was Saqlain.

Shortly after lunch Thorpe played a lofted off-drive off Saqlain to reach his fifty, but Pakistan's first success of the day soon followed. Off-spinner Arshad Khan had Salisbury caught at silly mid-off for 33. Having come in to bat the previous day as nigtwatchman he had done his job admirably with three-and-a-half-hours at the crease.

Along with Thorpe he added 97 in 45 overs and had taken the total to 203 when he was fourth out. At tea England were 227 for four and Thorpe, after a lengthy period of slow scoring had on-driven the leg spinner Danish Kaneria for four to reach 62.

Kaneria claimed his second Test wicket soon after the start of the last session of play when Alec Stewart, hitting against the spin, spliced a catch to mid-on. That was 235 for five and after 39 runs had been added, came the dramatic fall of the three wickets just before stumps.

Overall though, Graham Thorpe was still happy with England's performance. "They had the momentum this morning," he said, "but we took it away and we've stayed in the game. Some people thought they might have just gone through us today, but we haven't let them walk all over us.

"Wasim Akram took wickets with the new ball. But that happens in Test cricket, and we're pleased with our performance overall. We've come up against them on a pitch where there was rough and the ball was turning. But we've put up strong resistance. We've managed to hold them off and we're pleased with that," he told Sky

"The match is in the balance. There are two days to go, and the pitch is obviously not getting any better."