November 24, 2000

PCB XI collapse for 117: Hoggard's chances brighten for a Test spot

Lahore, Nov 23: England pacer Matthew Hoggard once again pressed for a Test spot with his impressive performance as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) XI were dismissed for 117 on the opening day of the threeday game at Bagh-e-Jinnah on Thursday.

The 23-year-old Yorkshire fast bowler followed up his nine wickets in the Rawalpindi four-dayer with four for 13 and helped England bundle out Pakistan hopefuls in 44.3 overs on a seaming track, under overcast conditions and before a decent crowd.

When bad light forced an early closure with 17 overs still to be bowled, England had reached 76 for two but not before they were tested by the new ball bowlers Fazl-i-Akbar and Stephen John.

Fazl-i-Akbar added to the miseries of England captain Nasser Hussain when he had him caught behind. Hussain, who has scored 656 runs this year from 23 first-class innings, scored 23 off 24 balls with four fours.

He had earlier passed a fitness test and opened the innings in place of Michael Atherton in an effort to get some runs under his belt before the back-to-back Tests at Faisalabad and Karachi.

Hussain is unlikely to get another batting opportunity in this game as late in the evening the rain had started amidst thunderstorm.

John found the outside edge of Graeme Hick. The two bowlers troubled Marcus Trescothick, who survived at least three confident leg before appeals, and had one mistimed drive fall very close to Hasan Raza at gully to finish the day on 28. With him was Alec Stewart on 12.

On a day in which 46.3 out of 63.3 overs were bowled by the pacers, the technique, potential and skills of the promising PCB XI batsmen were exposed as they failed to counter the pace and movement of the England seamers who shared eight wickets between them.

Besides Hoggard's four, part-timer Trescothick bagged two for 10 and Alex Tudor, playing his first game of the tour, snapped up two wickets for 44 runs.

Of the seven frontline PCB XI batsmen, five were caught in the arc behind the wickets while Faisal Iqbal played Tudor onto his stumps when 18 and Bazid Khan was unfortunate to be caught by wicket-keeper Paul Nixon after the ball had rebounded from the toe of Michael Vaughan who was fielding at silly point.

The dismissals of most of the batsmen proved that they lacked the basic footwork to play on seaming tracks. And for that, the PCB has to share the blame because it just doesn't concentrate on quality cricket. The domestic cricket is played on docile and flat tracks where either spinners dominate or the batsmen post massive scores.

Unless more seaming and pacemen-friendly wickets are prepared, the batsmen are always likely to struggle. A serious thinking is required immediately before Pakistan run out of quality batsmen and the national team is reduced to the level of the present West Indies side.

The PCB XI's inability cannot take credit away from Hoggard who intelligently bowled at a lively pace. He was quick to spot Hasan Raza's weakness against short pitch delivery.

A few bouncers, including the one which hit on the helmet, shook the world's youngest Test batsman's confidence before Tudor returned to pitch one upto the batsman and succeeded in finding his outside edge.

Hoggard's form will certainly give Nasser Hussain a good option particularly after Ian Salisbury has remained mediocre on this tour. The confidence Hussain had over Salisbury can be judged from the fact that despite PCB XI being 55 for five, the bowler had a sweeper to stop the boundaries as the Surrey spinner continued to bowl short and wide. outside the off stump.