England v Pakistan, 2nd npower Test, Edgbaston, 1st day August 6, 2010

Pakistan perform like the Bangladesh of old


Anyone who witnessed that execrable contest at the SSC last week will agree that Test cricket is at its best when bowlers are backed by conditions that act as bait, and batsmen are forced to battle like salmon on the end of a hook. What took place on the first day at Edgbaston, however, was more akin to lobbing a stick of dynamite into a reservoir. It took a measure of skill for England's bowlers to land their projectiles in the right area, but as soon as they'd done so, the struggle was as good as over.

Twice in five days Pakistan have set new record lows for Test innings against England, having themselves triggered the current trend for double-figure dismissals by detonating Australia's batting for 88 at Headingley. The thrill of that contest, however, came in the manner in which the Aussies battled back for the remainder of the match, clawing at every half-chance going to end up a tantalising three wickets adrift. Pakistan, however, have already squandered five chances of varying degrees of difficulty in 34.2 overs of England's first innings. The prospect of a fightback is as insubstantial as Zulqarnain Haider's current Test average.

Five Tests have been completed in England this summer - and only one of them has so far been taken to five days. Incredibly, given that teams with the reputation of Australia and Pakistan have been in town, it is the ever-lampooned Bangladeshis who have put up the fiercest fight, with Tamim Iqbal's outrageously gung-ho century at Lord's provoking his team-mates into the sort of resistance that this series is now crying out for. Ironically, Pakistan set their stalls for survival in this contest with Azhar Ali and Imran Farhat recording two of the slowest ducks of all time, but the team simply lacked the class to translate their resistance into progress.

Mohammad Yousuf may yet be the man to inject Pakistan with some much-needed knowhow - his career average against England is 70, just two runs shy of his team-mates' grand total in this first innings. But as Tamim went on to demonstrate in a one-man show in Bangladesh's second Test at Old Trafford, a personal tour de force is irrelevant if your colleagues don't have the technique or temperament to survive.

Pakistan have been here before of course. In Sharjah back in 2002-03, they played the first of their now-habitual neutral series against Australia, and crumbled to twin scores of 59 and 53 in an ignominious second Test at Sharjah. Then as now, the feebleness of their batting disguised the enduring excellence of their seemingly unending production-line of fast bowling, with the finest spell of Shoaib Akhtar's career going unrewarded in the first Test in Colombo. Now as then, we must hope they will come again, just as they did to everyone's astonishment at Headingley last month. But the facts of the present make hugely unpalatable reading all the same.

"We've been doing this all our lives and we have to clean up our own mess," said a crestfallen captain, Salman Butt, who fronted up with the same sense of duty that he has shown throughout his brief tenure as captain, but whose authority is being eroded by the day - with Yousuf's formidable presence cramping him on the one hand, and his own series tally of 16 runs in three innings undermining him on the other. His decision to bat first in grim grey conditions was not his finest, either, even if, as an opening batsman, it did demonstrate an admirable willingness to lead his team from the front.

"It's been like this since we've come here, we haven't had one day with sunshine," he added. "This pitch will not change. Given these conditions the ball will keep on swinging, so the idea was to put some runs on the board and let the other side get them. It was a positive move, but it didn't happen for us. But they still bowled brilliantly, back-to-back performances require great efforts and that's what they did."

For England, it was simply business as usual, not least for Stuart Broad, who played here a fortnight ago for Nottinghamshire and picked up career-best figures of 8 for 52, before extending that recent ground record to a remarkable 12 for 90. "It was slow and hard to drive on, so if you created pressure it meant they had to play shots at balls that weren't there," he said. "They had a 24-ball nought and a 32-ball nought, so that tells you it was quite hard to score on, but also a testament to how we bowled and the disciplines we stuck to."

England, in fairness, were excellent insofar as they needed to be. Half-trackers were non-existent as the three seamers stuck to their Trent Bridge gameplan of containment for containment's sake, and a sixth consecutive Test victory is surely now an inevitability. "We're putting huge amounts of pressure on the Pakistan batting line-up," said Broad. "We're bowling fantastically well, and we've had slightly cloudy conditions which have suited us. We've not given them a sniff."

But for the good of Test cricket, and even for England's own long-term benefit, a bit more resistance from Pakistan would not go amiss. While stalemates of the SSC variety are the greatest menace to the game, a fundamental lack of competitivity runs a close second. Bangladesh have been accused of cheapening Test cricket for years, but at least in the last few seasons they have learned the necessary application to take a game the full distance. Pakistan on the other hand, like West Indies, seem worryingly intent on unlearning those same disciplines, and given the mighty heritage of that pair in particular, it is a distinctly unnerving development.

If Edgbaston's half-built and half-full ground had similar foundations to the Pakistan team, then outright demolition would be the only viable option. Broad, however, scoffed at the notion that life was getting too cushy for him and his team. "As the opposition I don't have any sympathy," he said. "English fans are very supportive of their teams, so I hope people wouldn't lose interest because we are dominating.

"I'm sure an Australian public wouldn't lose interest when their team was winning comprehensively in the 1990s," he added. "But it's important that we continue to play exciting cricket. The Trent Bridge Test was a great Test to watch. If you batted well there were runs to be scored, but if you bowled in the final third you were in with a chance. The feedback I've got from friends and family is that it's been a good series to watch, and long may that continue."

It has certainly been compelling viewing so far, but the narrative could do with another twist sometime soon.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Faisal on August 9, 2010, 12:10 GMT

    I guess Mr. Miller was too eager to write this column. He did not not wait for Pakistan's second innings. Zulqarnain's innings has given Pakisntan their pride back. And for Miller: IN YOUR FACE!!!

  • Kabir on August 8, 2010, 8:38 GMT

    Andrew, I always enjoy your writings. They are soooo good. :). But here you have done a dis-service to the Bangladesh of old! At least they were local club cricketer standard and not the standard of relegated village cricketers, which is what you are implying here. (please, all village cricketers, do not jump in all at once!). If you recall Bangladesh of old had many "shoot from the hip" variety batsmen in those days, what with the likes of Habitual Basher and dibbly dobbly Khaled Mahmud - Geoff Boycott's description, not mine……..I have not used your very own K Mahmud's Cricinfo profile as it would be gratuitous violence if repeated here in what is otherwise a family viewing site! Anyway, Pak players are too feeble to match Bangladesh of old at least in this regard. No 24 ball and 32 ball ducks in Bangladesh of old!

  • Khalid on August 7, 2010, 19:43 GMT

    Agreed that Pakistan team is not performing well but this does not warrant the stupid comments taht many of us have been sending here. We must understand that playing Test cricket requires a high level of fitness level, strong mental approach and technical perfection. This can only be achieved if we play regular test matches both at home and away which in our case is not happening because of the reluctance of other teams to come to Pakistan due to security reasons. This added to the fact that our team is undergoing a re building fase is the root cause of them performing so badly. The bowling Alhamdollilah has come up and I am confidant the batting line up will also come up Insha Allah, the team needs our support and backing. It is at these times that we should stand with them and avoid discouraging them. Constructive analysis is OK and welcome but all the eubbish that is being written will get us no where so please guys, have some paitence and support the team.

  • dhoni on August 7, 2010, 16:37 GMT

    please guess pakistan team with out their bowlers.. amir,asif,gul. the team gets worse than forever.. Pakistan get some bit of breath from their spear head under waqar coaching.. sack salman and bring yousuf,younis,hammed,misbah,razzaq,kamran.. kamran replacement got duck.. its fair to keep akmal he can score few boundaries.. Few boundaries better than duck..

  • dhoni on August 7, 2010, 16:31 GMT

    @AhmadSaleem: You are showing australia won more matches against england.. that world knows champion australia beat england and england low scoring games.. Even pakistan beat australia target is 170 but they need 7 wickets.. poor batting.. how many centuries your batsmen score.. Look at tamim iqbal played in all condition and scored 837 runs this year.. look at your captain salman butt even not equal to bangladesh batsmen tamim and didnt know why you people comparing this pakistan team with bangladesh team.. its shame for bangladesh team..

  • Syed on August 7, 2010, 16:17 GMT

    At the current form Bangladesh will beat Pakistan. Remember Bangladesh is close to victory against Pakistan in a test but thanks to Inzamam and the No:11 batsman we survived. This happen quite a years ago. Sadly we have no batsman of Inzamam calibre in the team. Younus and Yousaf are dropped because Ejaz Butt and Yawar Saeed bow down by a group of players (Malik, Akmal, Salman, Misbah) in Dubai. They must be kick out from the team. Never before in Pakistan PCB is subject to player power because PCB management is only interested in getting heavy salaries. Patron of PCB and President of Pakistan is kindly requested to please remove this ill PCB management immediately because World Cup is very near. Make Lt. General (Rtd) Tauqir Zia or some one neutral figure such as Fakhr Ibrahim as PCB chief, Miandad or Haroon as Chief Coach, Intikhab as Permanent Manager and Aamir Suhail as Chief Selector and allow every one to work independently and without any influence.

  • Dummy4 on August 7, 2010, 16:08 GMT

    ICC should review the Status of Pakistan's test. Also Pakistanis should think of changing their PCB members as they have showed how to make a good cricketers to a worst cricketers in the world, now only pak is best in their bowling but they have to get their wickets either by LBW or bowled. pak is having a fielders who is no good than Zim's 1 std kids.and batsmen less capable than Afg's batsmen.their fielders are really putting down the best bowlers of the world that will put the bowlers confidence down which will force their bowlers to be the worst ones in the world under the best bowler of the world - WAQAR YOUNIS.

  • Nav on August 7, 2010, 16:06 GMT

    @Mr. Ahmadsaleem , I accept pakistan is good at home. But the pitches in pakistan are dead and are not very competetive. Also i accept the fact for srilanka too. They have very les number of games outside srilanka and they claim that they are a good team scoring 400 500 in dead pitcches. You are putting in statistics that wont help pakistan win this test. Plus bowling aloen is not required , if u claim that australia won those test matches only cos of bowling then you are not watching the match keenly. What the australian bowlers defending is a competetive score put on by batsmen. Yes pakistan batsmen need exposure but does their fielding needs too????

  • Trivikram on August 7, 2010, 16:05 GMT

    There is no words to say about current Pakistan Test Team. I think Bangladesh is far better than Pakistan.. Atleast even if they lose the match, they score min 150+ runs.. Look at the Pakistan Team.. Azhar Ali, Umar Amin who averages not more than 15 in Test Cricket.. Its so funny to watch when they bat.. I think Indian Domestic Players are far better than this Players.. Its very simple for the bowlers when these 2 players come to bat.. Just tight the Slip & Gully region.. They will be gone in 5-6 overs :-))))))))))). Wake Up Paki's

  • Syed on August 7, 2010, 15:56 GMT

    Every country has mindset and plan when playing test matches. Over the of years Pakistan team performed always untimely in test especially in batting when there is no pressure. Looking at Pakistan domestic cricket there is no competition and players are not accustomed to pressure situation. Technique and talent is important but it is determination, patience, concentration that required in test match. Also how quickly batsman adjust according to playing condition and pitch is also matter a lot.These abilities has been shown by players like Toufiq Umer, Asim Kamal, Fawad Alam. This is the job of Coaches and Managers which I am afraid not been done by Waqar & Ijaz. It is also not clear whether Mohsin Khan select this team or Ijaz Butt and Yawar saeed. I am sorry to say that the team is wrongly selected for this important tour and it seems that Lahore group of Ejaz Butt, Yawar seed, Shafqat Rana is in business very strongly and this is causing players of other cities to suffer.

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