November 17, 2000

Pakistan fight to avoid follow-on against England

Bad light deprived England of the opportunity to apply further pressure to Pakistan on the third day of the first Test in Lahore. A draw is now the probable result as England's chances of bowling Pakistan out twice on this slow wicket appear unlikely.

Earlier, despite the disappointment of losing Craig White's wicket in the fourth over of the day, after he had increased his overnight score by just four, England had little difficulty in adding further to their impressive score.

The depth in the England batting became increasingly apparent with the eighth-wicket partnership of Ian Salisbury and Ashley Giles putting on 70 valuable runs.

White would have felt particularly sorry for himself at losing his wicket when so close to his maiden Test century. His thoughts would have gone back to the previous evening when he accepted the offer of bad light from the umpires.

Having batted for all but the first hour on the second day, he was well set and playing with confidence. He would have been more likely to get those 11 runs then rather than having to settle in again next morning against fresh bowlers.

He fell to a bat-pad catch at forward short leg in Saqlain Mushtaq's second over. Yousuf Youhana, leaping to his right, held a sharp one-handed catch. That was the seventh England wicket to fall and yet another one to the Pakistan off-spinner.

On this slow wicket Pakistan's pattern of attack was similar to that of the previous morning when they opened the bowling with a combination of pace and spin. Saqlain had another long spell while Wasim Akram, still unable to find penetration, was replaced by Mushtaq Ahmed after six overs.

In a long, two-and-a-half-hour first session (due to Friday prayers which also extended the lunch break to an hour), England scored 87 from 35 overs.

The only other success for Pakistan during that period was Salisbury's wicket for 31. When Saqlain trapped him leg before wicket with the total on 468, he had claimed all eight wickets that England had lost. The tourists declared on their lunch total of 480-8. Giles remained not out with a patient 37 from104 balls.

Saqlain's extraordinary effort provided him with the remarkable figures of eight for 164 from 74 overs. "I wasn't thinking about the record (of all 10 wickets in an innings), only for the interests of the team," Saqlain commented later

Facing such a daunting score, Pakistan's priority was to reach the follow-on total of 281. They began their reply well, with Saeed Anwar playing forcefully after taking a little time to settle. The fifty came in just over an hour.

England introduced spin as early as the ninth over, when Giles replaced Darren Gough. But it was Graeme Hick's part time off-spin that made the breakthrough. He replaced Salisbury after twenty-one overs and struck straightaway, having Anwar leg before wicket for 40, with his second ball. That was on the stroke of tea with Pakistan 63 for one.

Shahid Afridi, an attacking opener, played his normal game after the break. He cut and pulled powerfully, hitting six boundaries and on 42, lifting Hick over long-off for six. He reached fifty, from 61 balls, when he pushed the first ball of Salisbury's second spell for a single to mid-wicket.

Pakistan's hundred coincided with Afridi's departure. On 52, a lofted drive to long off, off the bowling of Giles, ended in a well-judged catch by Gough.

Giles stressed the importance of patience when bowling on this wicket: "The Pakistanis are good players and we will just have to be patient. We don't want to hurry because then they might get away from us. We are in a good position now. They are still well off the follow-on.

"The important thing is not to get frustrated. When wickets come they could come in a hurry because it's not an easy wicket to come in straightaway and try and score. Knowing this lot, they will look to do that because a lot of their players like scoring at the crease, and that will hopefully help us and give us a chance."

When bad light stopped play with eight overs remaining, Pakistan were 119 for two. England go into the fourth day tomorrow comfortably placed, with Pakistan needing a further 162 to make England bat again.