December 3, 2000

Salim, Razzaq hit half centuries: Test heads for a likely draw

Faisalabad, Dec 2: Pakistan's two young guns Salim Elahi and Abdur Razzaq cracked half centuries of contrasting styles as the second cricket Test against England headed for a likely draw at the Iqbal Stadium.

Salim belted a blistering 72, his first innings over 50 in six Tests, and Razzaq was unbeaten on 60 as Pakistan ended the fourth day at 186 for two. Earlier, England added 60 runs in 67 minutes on the penultimate morning to accumulate 342 runs to secure a slender 26-run lead. They had resumed at 282 for eight.

Pakistan enjoy an overall lead of 160 runs over the tourists with just three sessions, including a light-marred final session, remaining in the game. With the wicket turning into a featherbed for the strokemakers and England employing defensive tactics, a stalemate is on the cards unless Pakistan produce a miraculous performance from here onwards to force a result.

When Salim Elahi batted with all guns blazing, it appeared for a moment that Pakistan would be able to stretch their overall lead to something around 200 before the stumps were drawn. But his departure put brakes on the scoring rate. Though Razzaq and Inzamam-ul-Haq (33 not out) played some extravagant shots but just couldn't pierce a defensive England field.

Salim Elahi, playing at his customary position after opener Saeed Anwar spent 490 minutes in the dressing room, canned the England bowlers at will and to all parts of the ground. Saeed is now entitled to bat not before the fall of five wickets. Salim's free-stroke approach yielded him 10 exquisite boundaries from 116 balls. He completed his maiden Test half century with an excellent off-the-toe boundary off Andrew Caddick.

Salim was brilliant on either side of the square. He cut and pulled ferociously, drove forcefully and ran between the wickets like a hare. It was heart-warming to see the 25-year-old cement his place in a fragile Pakistan batting lineup with a timely knock. But what was more significant was that he maintained his sweet form this season which has seen him score 44 and 41 in the previous two Test innings. Besides, he also scored a century against England in one of the two practice one-day games which followed knocks of 28, 58 not out and 23 in the limited overs series.

It was Salim's brilliant 116-ball stroke-play which forced Nasser Hussain to spread the field by the 33rd over in order to stop the flow of runs. But the England captain was only partially successful as Sahiwal-born batsman continued to play a variety of shots.

Salim was finally dismissed when beaten by the pace of Ashley Giles delivery who bowled over-the-wicket to exploit the bowler's rough. Salim attempted sweep found his glove and Alec Stewart completed a fine catch behind the wickets.

Nevertheless, Salim's innings will certainly put a lot of pressure on Shahid Afridi who for the second time in the match failed. Shahid played a trademark reckless shot to a bouncer from Darren Gough and was caught at fine-leg by Giles after getting the top edge.

Salim featured in a 98-run second wicket partnership with Abdur Razzaq in 131 minutes. Razzaq also justified his promotion at the pivotal one-down position with a watchful but stroke-filled 60. Razzaq has been batting for four hours during which he has received 167 balls out of which seven have been converted into boundaries, including the back-to-back ones against Craig White which brought him his third career half century.

Razzaq's most productive area remained the arc behind the bowler's head which shows how good he is when playing straight. Razzaq desperately needed to show something to convince the managers that he was as valuable a player in the longer version of the game as in oneday internationals.

Together with Inzamam, Razzaq has added 75 runs for the unfinished third wicket in 108 minutes. Inzamam survived a difficult chance off Giles to finish on a 80-ball 33 which includes just a solitary boundary.

The two to be followed up by hard-hitting Yousuf Youhana, Moin Khan and Wasim Akram will try to acclerate the run-rate when play begins on the final morning. The quicker they will score, the more time they will get to take a final shot at the Englishmen who can't be more pleased than to hold the pre-series favourites Pakistan, for the second draw of the series.

Earlier, Wasim Akram and Razzaq showed a lot of generosity by bowling everywhere except stumps with a 12 overs old red cherry to allow the last two English pairs add 60 runs, including 47 runs in 51 minutes for the last wicket between Graig White and Darren Gough. The two continued to pitch short which is nothing but poor bowling.

Razzaq was worse of the two though he was lucky to add the wicket of Andrew Caddick to a borderline case. Razzaq finished with three for 74 while Wasim Akram ended up with one for 69 in his 100th Test.

Saqlan Mushtaq clipped the bail of Craig White with a sharp turner to finish with three for 62 and take his tally of wickets in the series to 12.

The great beneficiary from wayward Pakistan pace duo was White who followed up his 93 at Lahore with a 46-ball 41. His innings was studded with three fours and two sixes.