December 11, 2000

Pakistan lose three quick wickets in 2nd innings

England score 388: Karachi, Dec 10: Pakistan were 71 for three at stumps on Sunday, the fourth day of the third and last Test against England at the National Stadium.

The last five minutes of the day's play left the match intriguingly placed after the game had seemed to be heading for a high scoring draw.

Pakistan appeared to have recovered from the dismissal of both the openers inside 10 overs and reached 71 for two in their second innings. But just seven balls before fading light stopped play, Ashley Giles produced the most deadly delivery of the match which spun square from the bowler's rough and hit the stumps of a shell-shocked Inzamam-ul-Haq, team's most experienced and reliable batsman.

The prized wicket gave the Warwickshire spinner his 15th wicket in the series and eclipsed the previous best by an England bowler in Pakistan of 14 set by Nick Cook on the 1983-84 tour.

Nightwatchman Saqlain Mushtaq survived the remaining deliveries but Pakistan were left reeling at 71 for three and just 88 runs ahead of the tourists.

On the final day of the three-Test series, currently locked at 0-0, Pakistan would find the entire world's pressure on them as England have no chance of losing from this point onwards. If ever the tourists sense an opportunity to beat Pakistan in Pakistan, it is this one as the home team batsmen are on the backfoot and would largely rely on occupying the crease and consume the time rather than go for quick runs and set a target for the visitors.

The Englishmen would try all the tricks available in this sport to unsettle the batsmen in an effort to provoke them and pick up some cheap wickets in the process. The pacers would bend their backs, the spinners will bowl with a bunch of close-in fielders and some remarks might also be exchanged. And all this action is expected during the first session's play which is so very crucial for both the teams in the context of a result.

The Pakistanis, specially the batsmen, have displayed one of the poorest show of batsmenship and are guilty of digging their own graves with shots only amateurs would attempt.

The dismissal of veteran Saeed Anwar is a case in point. He perished to one of the oldest tricks in the trade when he was caught by Graham Thorpe at fine-leg while hooking Andrew Caddick. It was a completely needless shot to play after having seen his counterpart Michael Atherton gently play short-pitched stuff on the ground with the roll of the wrists and satisfying himself with ones or rare twos. But Saeed's shot was a greedy one as he tried to stroke the ball hard and attempted to hit out of the ground for the maximum.

If the Pakistan middle and lower middle-order has to remove the stigma of chokers under pressure, they will have to show tremendous mental strength and toughness to steer Pakistan's sinking ship to safer shores. Salim Elahi is batting on 14 and then Yousuf Youhana, Abdur Razzaq, Moin Khan and Shahid Afridi have to follow which sounds a formidable batting to come. But the last three batsmen jointly contributed 44 runs in the previous innings besides Youhana's 117.

Nevertheless, the foursome have the skills and potential to play long innings. If anyone of them wants to become an overnight hero, this is the opportunity because Pakistan's back is against the wall, defeat is staring right in their faces and the entire nation's eyes are focused on whether Pakistan succeeds to maintain their proud record against England and at the National Stadium intact.

It is a pity that Pakistan's top order batsmen have overshadowed a brilliant comeback match of paceman Waqar Younis who added two more wickets on the fourth day to finish as the most successful bowler with four for 88 from 36 overs. His performance was a slap on the faces of those who said the wickets were uncondusive for pacers and those who didn't even consider him in the 14 for the first Test squad.

Waqar could have picked up his first five-wicket haul in 15 Tests had Nazir Junior not rejected two veroficious leg before appeals against Ian Salisbury (20). Television replays confirmed that Salisbury was very lucky to survive. The Surrey wrist spinner capitalized on the opportunities to penalize the home team by frustrating them for 89 minutes with last-man Darren Gough (18) with whom he added 39 invaluable runs.

Waqar looked fired-up and a man on a mission. His run-up was a fluent as ever which helped him maintain an excellent line and length while extracting good pace from a docile surface. He swung the ball in the air and seamed it off the unsupportive track to confirm his fitness and form.

Waqar, who is country's most successful bowler this year with 33 wickets, exposed Graeme Hick's vulnerability against anything around his rib cage when he had him smartly held by Shahid Afridi at square-leg on the fifth ball of the day. He later found the inside edge of Giles to complete his tally of wickets.

Waqar not only suffered at the hands of Nazir Junior, Moin Khan dropped one of the two catches off his bowling. Though many would say they were difficult ones, fact remains that these catches have to be held to extend full support to the bowler and motivate the fielders if you are the captain.

If Moin dropped two, he held a brilliant catch to terminate a magnificent and concentration-packed innings from Michael Atherton. The 32-year-old Lancastrian added just eight runs to his overnight score of 117 before departing. He occupied the crease for nine hours and 39 minutes during which he faced 430 deliveries. His innings included just nine boundaries.

When Atherton reached 121, he became England's fifth most prolific run-getter by overtaking Wally Hammond (7,264). He now stands behind Graham Gooch (8,900), David Gower (8,231), Geoffrey Boycott (8,114) and Colin Cowdry (7,264).

Moin also dropped Craig White, again down the leg side, but made amends when he stumped the Yorkshireman off Danish Kaneria who finished with two for 80.

Saqlain Mushtaq picked up the last man Gough to end up with two for 101 and take his series wickets to 15.