November 19, 2000

England and Pakistan play out time in Test stalemate

Honours were shared in the drawn first Test between Pakistan and England as the game petered out shortly after tea on the fifth day.

The likelihood of a result being achieved had gradually diminished soon after tea on the fourth day, when Pakistan's ninth-wicket stand had ensured that the follow-on was averted.

That partnership, having carried Pakistan to safety, flourished further when the Pakistan innings resumed on the final morning on 333 for eight, still 147 runs in deficit.

Yousuf Youhana and Saqlain Mushtaq extended their overnight, unbroken stand of 60 to 127 with Saqlain content on anchoring himself while his senior partner kept the scoreboard ticking over.

Saqlain, fortunate to survive an appeal for leg before wicket, took an hour, during which he faced 42 balls before adding to his overnight score of 14.

Youhana had, meanwhile, moved into the 90s. He ran a two and a single off Ian Salisbury to reach 99 and then square-drove to cover-point in his next over to bring up his fourth Test hundred. He has been in prolific form with three centuries in his last five Tests.

Upon reaching the three figures, Youhana, the only Christian in the Pakistan side, made the sign of the cross and then, as if inspired by it, promptly played one of the best shots of his innings, an off-drive off Salisbury.

At lunch, Pakistan were 396 for eight and Saqlain, who had given excellent support to Youhana in bringing up their 100 partnership, had moved on to 30 not out.

Finally, in the second session, England had their first success of the day. It was the wicket of the centurion, Youhana, with Ashley Giles having him caught behind.

Pakistan were now 400 for nine and Youhana had batted for six and a quarter hours, having faced 309 balls from which he struck eight boundaries and a six in reaching 124, his highest Test score.

More importantly, from Pakistan's point of view, he had played the biggest part in enabling his side to avoid the follow-on, which would possibly have brought defeat.

A run later Pakistan's innings was wrapped up leaving Saqlain unbeaten on 32, having defied the England bowlers for no less than four hours and responding to his team's call when it was most required. In addition to that, his nine wickets in the match (eight in the first innings) brought him the man of the match award.

Craig White and Giles finished with four wickets each. White's effort was most commendable on the slow, lifeless pitch, which saw the pace bowlers of both sides struggle throughout the match.

England batted a second time shortly after lunch, until nearly an hour after tea when the match was brought to an end, five overs into the mandatory fifteen.

Having played so splendidly in the first innings, England, with 77 for four, the second time around, batted as if to only go through the motions until the formality of completing the day's play. It was during this period that Nasser Hussain was hit while attempting to hook a rising ball from Wasim Akram and was taken to hospital for an x-ray.

"I don't want to make out how hard I am or anything like that, but that's the first time I've ever retired hurt," revealed Hussain later. "I've been hit at Headingley and various other places and I don't like walking off, but when you can't feel your fingers and can't get your hand back in the glove then you don't mind coming off."

The x-ray reassured the English camp as no break was discovered. The team physiotherapist, Dean Conway said: "We will need to continue to assess the situation, but we are optimistic Nasser will be fit for the next Test."

Despite being unable to press home a surprise victory Hussain was happy with the English performance. "I'm satisfied with the way we played -- you don't come out here just looking at results all the time. You can't control how the opposition play, you can only control your own game and Pakistan fought very hard.

"As we went into the game a lot of people were expecting it to be all over in three days on a turning wicket against four spinners. It's nice to show people that we can play and we're learning all along."