December 2, 2000

The test heading for a draw

The citizens of Faisalabad showed much more enthusiasm for the Test between England and Pakistan than the people of other towns where the matches were held earlier. How encouraging it was to see the stadium almost packed with cricket lovers every day. Their cheers and chanting provided the players lot of impetus to perform.

It was the day of safe and steady batting by both the sides. Except for the 3 quick wickets that the Pakistan bowlers grabbed at the closing hours on the 3rd day, the bowlers could not be described as ` having run through the side' at any other moment. Notwithstanding the manner the pitch was designed to behave, it eventually helped everyone. It supported the spinners and the pace bowlers alike at the same time helping the tail enders like Ian Salisbury, Craig White and others scoring the number of runs even the players may not have expected.

England resumed the innings at the overnight total of 282 for 8 but lost the early wicket when Andrew Caddick was out bringing England down to 295 for 9. The last pair of Craig White and Darren Gough , however, played like the recognized batsmen punishing the bowlers at will.

They took a steady start but after surpassing the Pakistan's total of 316, they were almost on the rampage. The rate of scoring speeded up when White lifted Danish Kaneria for a mighty six while Gough wrapped him for a four in one over. They were piling up runs with the object of taking a big lead Saqlain Mushtaq bowled White after he had contributed an invaluable 41 to his team's total. England was all out for 342 runs, gaining a lead of 26 runs over Pakistan. Saqlain Mushtaq and Abdur Razzaq shared 3 wickets each while the debutante Danish Kaneria claimed 2.

The prolific opener Saeed Anwar feeling indisposed, Pakistan opened the innings with Shahid Afridi and Saleem Elahi losing the 1st wicket with only 13 runs on the board. Not being able to control his slogging instinct Afridi played a crazy shot off ------ giving a flying catch to ---for 10. Promoted in the batting order, Abdur Razzaq joined Saleem Elahi to pursue a slow and steady race. They leveled the England's lead of 26 runs in the 11th over and continued piling up runs at a steady pace.

With a dashing boundary to mid-wicket off Caddick Elahi hoisted his first 50 in test cricket, at the same time raising Pakistan's score to 78 for 1. Encouraged by his half century, Elahi opened up hitting all over the field. The result was obvious. In an attempt to sweep Giles, he was caught behind the stumps by Alec Stewart after playing a very solid innings of 72. While the 2nd wicket partnership between Elahi and Razzaq yielded 98 runs, Pakistan was now 111 for the loss of 2 wickets.

Inzamam ul Haq took the crease and was off the mark with a single, on the very first ball. The score continued mounting at a steady pace with occasional hits to the boundary. The bowlers were apparently not making a significant impact on the batsmen with the result that 150 of the Pakistan's innings came in 50 overs. It was followed by individual 50 by Abdur Razzaq which he completed in 140 balls. At this stage Inzamam was at 28 with Pakistan's total at 169.

Pakistan was at 177 for 2 when Inzamam trying to hook Giles was dropped by Caddick in the fine-leg region. It was a highly irresponsible shot by a fine batsman, especially at the time when only few overs were left for the close of play and the light was also fading. The play was stopped with Pakistan at 186 for 2. Razzq (60) and Inzamam (30) were at the crease. With a lead of 160 runs and 8 wickets in hand, Pakistan looked pretty safe. In a situation where the batsmen were excelling as against the bowlers who looked helpless, the match seemed to be heading for a draw.