December 11, 2000

Poor handling of team cost Pakistan the test

England achieved an incredible victory over Pakistan in the Karachi Test. A test considered to be a sure draw ended in a decision in favor of England for Pakistan's own follies. The target of 176 runs was too small to defend when the pitch helped the batsmen throughout the game. Winning a test under miserably low light and other conditions may find a place in England's cricket history. With Pakistan's defeat at the National stadium Karachi vanished a record. Among the 34 tests played at the NSK Pakistan had not lost any.

An almost certain draw having turned into a fifty-fifty chance encounter on account of England's excellent performance both with bat and the ball, the first session held the key for a result. With 3 important wickets lost with only a moderate lead of 88 runs, it was more crucial for Pakistan. England was in a better position to put pressure on the opponents through an effective bowling-batting combination.

Saqlain Mushtaq who came in as the night watch man, did display some confidence by hitting Darren Gough for a blistering 4 but was trapped LBW by him a little later, providing England an early break-through. Pakistan was 78 for 4.

Yousuf Youhana a centurion of the 1st innings came in to bat. While Gough generated lot of pace, Ashley Giles kept the batsmen under pressure by placing a ring of closein fielders around them. After bowling 6 maiden overs, Giles was hit for a 4 to square leg when Saleem Elahi picked up the courage to break the cordon. An almost crisis situation having put Pakistan on the defensive, the 100 of its 2nd innings came in 42 overs, with an overall lead of 117 runs.

Despite losing 4 good wickets Pakistan still had some talented batsmen to follow but their efforts were generally directed towards wading through the storm of the 1st session with safety. The plan did not work to their full desire. Elahi and Youhana who provided some respectability to the innings registered a 50 runs partnership in 127 balls. Immediately after, both of them chose to depart for the pavilion getting out on absolutely silly shots.

While Youhana bought his ouster by trying to hook a short-pitched delivery from Craig White and getting caught behind the stumps, Elahi became the victim of the close in fielders offering an easy catch to silly mid-off. Elahi scored a sedate 37 while Youhana contributed a useful 24. Both the batsmen lost their wicket on account of personal follies. With the scoreboard reading 128 for 6, Pakistan was in dire straits.

Abdur Razzaq and Moin Khan were at the crease to face the England's onslaught. Both had the capacity of playing the long innings even under pressure but somehow the condition favored England. While Pakistan was battling to prevent the fall of more wickets to save the test, England's bowlers were reigning supreme. Unable to break the ring of close-in fielders Razzaq also succumbed to a catch at silly mid-off on a Giles delivery. He held the crease for 41 balls scoring only one run. Moin was the next to go offering an easy catch to Nasser Hussain off White. He scored 14 runs in 33 balls. Pakistan was almost down in the dumps with 143 for 8.

Pakistan's fate now rested on Shahid Afridi the pinch hitter of one-day cricket and speedster Waqar Younis wielding the willow. To take the gloom off, Afridi played some good shots but in the process got his partner Waqar Younis run out, reducing Pakistan to a miserable 149 for 9. The task of adding more runs and whiling away the time was now in the hands of the last pair of Afridi and Danish Kaneria.

Shahid Afridi tried his best to change the pattern by resorting to offensive batting but did not succeed because his partner at the crease had no credence as a batsman. With Kaneria losing his wicket Pakistan was all out for 158. Gough and Giles claimed 3 wickets each while White got one. England had the victory target of 176 runs in 44 overs. Being anybody's game with England having a better chance, the situation was pretty exciting. The spectators' interest in the game was revived.

With all the exuberance to chase the target and a burning desire to win England scored 27 runs in 7 overs before tea including 5 hits to the boundary. Needing 149 runs to win, Atherton (21) and Trescothick (6) were batting with immense confidence. Pakistan's fielding was not brilliant. Expecting the test to end in a result, the crowd continued cheering, chanting and shouting slogans in Pakistan's favor.

Pakistan achieved a vital break through when Atherton trying to sweep a delivery from Saqlain was caught by Saeed Anwar for a brisk 26. England lost the 1st wicket at 38. Saqlain struck again when in the 11th over he made short work of Trescothick who was brilliantly caught by Inzamam for 24. England was 51 for 2.

Alec Stewart and Graham Thorpe the two competent batsmen were now facing an all spin attack of Saqlain and Kaneria. Trying to steal a run on every ball, they were trying to adopt the one-day style of batting. Saqlain bowled 1st maiden of the innings in the 15th over. Afridi having taken over from Kaneria also bowled a maiden over, breaking the tempo of run scoring to some extent. Saqlain claimed his 3rd victim by ousting Alec Stewart for 5. England was 3 down for 65 when Graeme Hick took the crease.

Pakistan was gradually coming back in the game but there was no visible decline in England's intentions and efforts to clinch the victory. The score was gradually building up and advancing towards the target. England reached 100 of the innings in 27 overs without further loss. Piling up runs gradually Stewart and Hick raised the innings to a stage where England required 40 runs in 9 overs. With the victory target coming nearer England was well on its way to win the all-important test and the series.

With 20 runs to win, Graham Thorpe hoisted his match winning 50. His partner in this historical venture, Graeme Hick, however, left his company bowled by Waqar Younis for a glorious innings of 40. The light had faded to the extent that it was not fit for play. With victory well in sight, the England batsmen insisted to continue the game. A stage came when the ball was neither visible to the batsmen nor to the fielders. The play continued with the batsmen hitting in the air and the fielders unable to cut off. With 6 wickets in hand and the target at an arm's length, England could continue with the joke for any length of time. England eventually achieved the target of 176 runs with still 2 overs to go, thus defeating Pakistan by 6 wickets.

Winning the 3rd and final test under strange conditions, England not only won the series against Pakistan but also shattered the record of 34 unbeaten tests played at the National Stadium Karachi. England performed marvelously well to win the test. In contrast Pakistan performed poorly. Moin Khan's performance as captain as well as wicket keeper was simply horrible. The batting was irresponsible, fielding was sloppy and the use of bowling resources highly unimaginative. Well Done - England.