December 10, 2000

With Pakistan losing 3 wickets the result now hangs in the balance

The England batsmen played with grit and determination to surpass Pakistan's total of 405 runs and nearly achieved the objective. By adding 111 runs they ended the innings with a good total of 388.

Speedster Waqar Younis a veteran of more than 300 test wickets who was dropped in the last test, accounted for 4 England batsmen on a wicket not made for him. Pakistan lost three 2nd innings wickets for 71 runs when the play ended.

England's resumption of the innings was not very encouraging as they lost Graeme Hick, caught by Shahid Afridi off Waqar Younis immediately at the start bringing England down to 278 for 5. Waqar generating lot of pace, bounce and reverse swing claimed his 3rd wicket of the innings. Pakistan missed another break-through when Moin Khan dropped Craig White when he tried to hook a bouncer from Waqar. In the meantime Mike Atherton batting at 123 completed his 9 hours stay at the crease.

Abdur Razzaq came on to bowl and was squarecut for a 4 by White on the first ball. Batting at a steady pace England completed 300 of the innings in 135 overs. Some thrill, however, came in the next over when White lifted Saqlain Mushtaq over the square leg boundary for a six. Pakistan got the luckiest break of the match when Razzaq ousted Atherton for a splendid innings of 125 runs scored in 430 balls. He was the victim of a one handed catch smartly taken by Moin Khan behind the stumps. England lost the 6th wicket at 309. With the stone-wall Atherton back in the pavilion, Pakistan revived the hope of putting some more dents in the England's innings. Though Atherton played a slow and steady game, it was a text book innings for the upcoming youngsters to emulate.

Having thrilled the crowd with a brilliant catch Moin Khan missed another one, when he failed to hold a snick from Ashley Giles off an out swinger from Razzaq. Giles celebrated his survival by smashing the bowler for a four to square leg on the next ball. Incidently he again survived a chance at the very hands of Moin Khan who dropped him for the second time. Razzaq was again the bowler to suffer. With such glaring omissions Moin Khan did not look to be in the right frame of mind. Had he held all the catches offered to him, England would have been back in the pavilion.

At lunch England was 335 for 6 with White (33) and Giles (16) holding the crease. The session brought 58 runs in 26 overs, a poor display of batting, especially when England having a respectable total on the board had nothing to lose. May be the desire of taking the 1st innings lead was restricting stroke play. For the spectators there was no excitement in the game. They perhaps enjoyed the dropping of catches by the Pakistani fielders more than the far and few strokes that were played. The Test having entered the 4th day without even the completion of 1st innings, the situation demanded some fireworks.

Waqar Younis struck again claiming his 4th victim, when he bowled Giles for 19 through an inside edge immediately after lunch. England was now at 339 for 7. Two more wickets fell within a span of 10 runs. Craig White who proved his position as an all-rounder by doing well with the bat in most of the contests was the next to go after scoring an invaluable 35. He was stumped by Moin off Kaneria. Andrew Caddick became Kaneria's next victim rendering England to 349 fo 9.

A 21 overs long 10th wicket partnership between Ian Salisbury and Darren Gough ensued to add 39 more runs to the total. England was all out finally for 388, only 17 runs short of Pakistan's total of 405. Waqar Younis was the chief wrecker with 4 wickets for 88, while the spin duo of Saqlain Mushtaq and Danish Kaneria shared 2 wickets each.

The 1st innings having consumed 3 full days plus 2 sessions of the 4th day, there was no chance of a result in the match or the series for that matter. In a perfectly happy position, Pakistan opened the 2nd innings with Saeed Anwar and Imran Nazir. Both the openers not having scored very many runs in the series needed big scores to maintain their position but it was not so. They started quite aggressively scoring 24 runs in 6 overs but frittered away one after the other. While Imran was out for only 4 runs, Saeed threw away his wicket after scoring a breezy 21. A well experienced and a highly talented player, Saeed attempted a wild shot on a rising ball from Caddick and was smartly caught by Graham Thorpe on the 3rd man boundary. Losing its opening pair, Pakistan was 26 for 2.

After losing a celebrated player like Saeed and a promising youngster in Imran so cheaply Pakistan was under pressure to find a safe passage through the fading evening light. Saleem Elahi and Inzamam ul Haq who held the crease played a steady game to keep the score board moving. With all the caution they raised the total to 50 in 18 overs. Inzamam being more aggressive of the two lost his wicket, bowled by Giles for 27. Saqlain came in as the night watchman.

Pakistan was 71 for 3 when the stumps were drawn for the day. Elahi appeared to be well set at the crease with 14 runs scored in 58 balls. Though Pakistan has a lead of 88 runs with 7 wickets in hand, having lost 3 important wickets it was not out of the woods. The England bowlers almost dominated the last session of the game. The Pakistan batsmen shall have to apply themselves squarely on the last day to safeguard against a possible collapse. As against the earlier thought of a definite draw, the result of the test now hangs in the balance.