December 3, 2000

Pakistan spinners dominate while the Test ends in a draw

Resuming at the overnight score of 186 for 2, Pakistan took an adventrous start on the 5th and final day of the Faisalabad Test. Punishing the England bowlers all around, Abdur Razzaq and Inzamzm ul Haq piled up 40 runs in 9 overs providing Pakistan a lead of 200. With a brisk spell of run making Razzaq (85) and Inzamam (48) delighted the crowd by giving the game a touch of one day match. Scoring 64 runs in a spell of 14 overs they hoisted 250 of the innings.

Razzaq was at a critical 95 when he survived a run out chance while trying a cheeky run. England, however, succeeded in breaking through Pakistan's defense of the other end where Inzamam lost his cool lifting Salisbury to long-off for a mighty six. Trying to repeat the shot again he was caught by Graeme Hick after playing an enterprising innings of 71. Pakistan was 259 for 3.

Pakistan had decided to declare the innings closed but they were waiting for Razzaq to hoist his first test match 100. He did so by driving Darren Gough for 2. The declaration came immediately after, with Pakistan's total at 269 for 3. Gough, Giles and Salisbury shared a wicket each. England had a victory target of 244 with two full sessions of play available for the task.

The pitch, despite the normal wear and tear and the extra bounce played extremely well. The very fact that Razzaq scored a magnificent century while Saleem Elahi and Inzamam were out after crossing the 70 runs mark indicated that it was more of a batsman's paradise than a friend of the spinners, as generally thought of.

The spectators had the general tendency of leaving the ground after lunch on the last day if a result was not expected. By declaring the innings closed Pakistan had boosted up the cricket fans' interest in the game and prevented them to depart. At the same time, the ball was now in England's court, to give the match an exciting finish by trying to win.

Required to score at the rate of around 4 runs per over, England commenced the 2nd innings at a slow and steady pace. It looked as if they were not in a mood to force a result. They had consumed 18 overs to score 44 runs when Pakistan got the 1st break through. Marcus Trescothick was bowled by Saqlain Mushtaq for 10, followed by two more wickets lost in quick succession. Nasser Hussain (5) and Graham Thorpe (0) were the next to go being the victims of Arshad Khan's guile. After losing 3 important wickets for only 57 runs on the board England was in tremendous pressure.

At tea England was 88 for 3 with Mike Atherton (55) holding his end with immense confidence. They had 156 runs to chase in the last session, an almost impossible task with the chips down after losing 3 important wickets and no intentions of taking the risk of changing over from a safe and sound defense to a hit outget out offensive.

The spinners attacking from the two ends with the help of a ring of close-in fielders around the batsmen, restricted the stroke play to a considerable extent. England faced another disaster when Alec Stewart edged a delivery from Shahid Afridi in the hands of Yousuf Youhana fielding at silly-point after scoring 22 useful runs. Graeme Hick came in and was clean bowled by Shahid Afridi before he could open his account. England was 5 down for 108 with the pressure rising further. As the wickets fell the crowd shouted in jubilation.

The apathy of England's batting was evident from the fact that at this stage of the match only 3 runs were scored in a spell of 6 overs. With the batsmen not opening up, the bowlers toiling hard and the time passing the end was not in sight. It was thus decided to call off the match as a `draw' when England was 125 for 5. Atherton was not out with a solid 65. Shahid Afridi and Arshad Khan shared 2 wickets each.

While the Pakistan spinners dominated, Mike Atherton acted as a rock to keep England's innings together. Had he not kept his end with unflinching courage, Pakistan could have inflicted a bigger damage to his team. On the Pakistan side Abdur Razzaq deserved bouquets for a splendid ton that provided his team the advantage of brow-beating England in the 2nd innings. He was rightly declared `Man of the Match'.

Both the teams played excellent cricket that provided a feast of enjoyment to the people of Faisalabad. It was a wonderful show to wash away the bitter memories of the 1987 fiasco. Skipper Moin Khan was of the opinion that the pitch did not turn as much as it was expected to, while Nasser Hussain thought it was a difficult track to bat on. "Pitch was the only winner", remarked one of the commentators after the match was declared as a draw.

The two teams now meet at Karachi on December 7, for the 3rd and final test of the series. The outcome of the first two tests has proved that the things do not necessarily happen as planned, so let us keep our fingers crossed.