Waqar wary of workload for fast men
For a brief moment this morning it felt like Pakistan seemed to have gained a foothold in this exciting Test. After Umar Gul's defiant burst with the bat, which relieved them of the burden of following on, Pakistan fought back admirably with their three fast men trampling the England batting order with authority. At 98 for 6, and the lead at 270, Pakistan held their heads high.
But as the full house at Trent Bridge welcomed the sun finally breaking through the clouds for the first time in two days about an hour after lunch, the visitors' body language steadily grew weary. With the pitch offering hardly any true bounce or movement and the ball losing its shine, Salman Butt duly rested his pace trio comprising the two Mohammads - Asif and Aamer - and Gul.
Subsequently Danish Kaneria, who was introduced for the first time in the day one over before tea, continued to operate from one end while the part-timers Shoaib Malik and Umar Amin bowled innocuous overs for Matt Prior to build to his century and wilt the Pakistan spirits with every additional run.
Just like Australia had escaped twice at Lord's after Pakistan's quicks had worked assiduously to demolish the specialist batsmen, Prior led England to recovery and then built further momentum in the company of the tail. What worked in the hosts' favour was there was nothing much for the fast bowler on a dry and slow pitch. Also keeping in mind a long summer ahead, Pakistan did not want to exhaust and risk injury to their match-winning pace trio.
"The [fast] bowlers were really tired," Waqar Younis, Pakistan coach, said after the day's play. "These [fast] bowlers have been bowling too many overs from the Australia series. We don't want anyone injured and those three our key bowlers."
If there was somebody he wasn't impressed with it was his main spinner Kaneria, who Waqar felt was a big letdown. The coach had a blunt appraisal of the legspinner in this match: "We struggled with Danish Kaneria. He was lacking confidence and he really struggled getting his rhythm going, which was tough for us."
Astonishingly, Kaneria failed to bowl any maidens and had only one wicket to his credit with his match figures reading: 33-0-171-1. Waqar pointed out that Kaneria's best opportunity to bounce back after an abysmal first-innings performance with the ball came early in the second session today.
With Stuart Broad hunting for runs this year and Jimmy Anderson on a king pair and Steven Finn playing only his third Test, Kaneria needed to dominate Prior, England's last specialist batsman. "At a stage when they were six down we just needed somebody to get up and take a wicket but that didn't happen," Waqar said.
For most of the afternoon Pakistan allowed things to happen and the early morning promise that Gul had injected into the team with his maiden half-century suddenly seemed distant. For the second time this summer Pakistan were chasing a 400-plus score for victory in the fourth innings - Australia had set them 440 at Lord's - and both times they knew it could've been a much easier, and achievable target.
Asked if he was disappointed at his top order failing to survive with about three quarters of an hour before the close of play, Waqar conceded that losing three wickets was too many. "In a way it is always disappointing when you lose wickets when you don't want to especially at the end of the day," Waqar said. "I wasn't expecting three wickets - maybe one, but they were right on target."
But the Pakistan coach said he couldn't blame the batsmen entirely, as they had endured a long and taxing day in the field. "It is always tough when you are in the field for 70 overs and then you have to go and bat and it is even tougher for the youngsters," Waqar said.
So, is it over for Pakistan in this Test? Waqar nearly admitted defeat. "It seems very, very hard form here on," he said nodding his head. That does not mean he is giving up on the series, because he reckons Pakistan have the ability to fight back just like they caught Ricky Ponting's men by surprise at Headingley.
"We won against Australia [so] we are a very fine side and I've got no doubt that they can make a comeback. It is a four-match Test series. I haven't given up on this Test yet, but it is not going to be very easy tomorrow."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo