England v Pakistan, 2nd npower Test, Edgbaston, 3rd day August 8, 2010

Inspiring Zulqarnain gives Pakistan belief

He was on a king pair and without technology would have gone down in the record books for the wrong reasons, but Pakistan's debutant keeper turned into a hero

Belief. Goddamn belief. Where have you been hiding all this while? Pakistan might well ask that question after a day in which Zulqarnain Haider, Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Amir played like the most cocksure men in the world. They showed the necessary arrogance to stand up to England, and coupled that with a self-confidence that irritated, frustrated and exhausted in equal measure. By the close Pakistan had done the unthinkable: they had batted a whole day for the first time this summer.

It would have been ridiculous to entertain such a notion in the morning. The other prediction - that Graeme Swann would bowl rather more than his series quota of two overs - came to fruition fast and quick as the best offspinner of the moment deceived Pakistan's specialist batsmen with stunning flight and turn. By lunch, Salman Butt was already pondering what new reasons he could offer for another shameful fold-up. Once again the young and old in the Pakistan top- and middle-order had played aimlessly, flopping into a discarded heap like dirty laundry.

But then came Zulqarnain and Co. who refused to be hung out to dry on the line. After technology spared him the ignominy of a king pair on debut, Zulqarnain steeled himself for whatever England could threw at him for the rest of the afternoon. And let's not fool ourselves. The real story wasn't about how he rose above his debutant nerves. The real story was of how he lorded it over England's bowling. Along with Amir for the 90-odd minutes after lunch, and the next couple of hours in the company of Ajmal, he forced Strauss into a complete re-think of his tactics.

Remember England had one foot squarely on Pakistan's throat already. So something extraordinary was needed to get them off the canvas. But Zulqarnain did something clever. He sensed the bowlers were attacking him but he needed to get back on top. Against Swann he took guard slightly outside leg stump to take lbw out of the equation, as Swann attacked his pads from around the stumps. At other times he was seen walking up the pitch a few yards to face down James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Nothing dents a fast bowler's ego more than a batsman charging him with such impudence. Both gave him a 'don't-you-dare-do-that' stare immediately. He out-stared them.

Even Strauss, at first slip, was rattled. What helped Zulqarnain was Amir's dead-batted defiance at the other end. And whenever Zulqarnain tried to do something silly, it was the 18-year-old Amir who slapped him on his wrists. Ajmal did the same later. Like a nagging pair of parents, the duo protected the newcomer from getting carried away. The three amigos understood patience was key and the only way to push back the enemy.

The other aim was to tire the opposition and make them do things that they would not normally attempt. Like placing two fielders in the deep behind square as Steve Finn mechanically tried to knock Ajmal's block off with bouncers but ended up wasting them. It proved to be a futile tactic as Ajmal grew confident and even notched his own maiden half-century.

Zulqarnian said later he was playing with the psyche of his opponents. It was working. Naively Broad threw back a ball in disgust at him, and earned himself a date with the match referee. Anderson was chirping constantly at the Pakistan wicketkeeper from mid-on, but was just wasting his breath. At times when the situation got out of hand, the Pakistanis were not afraid to have a go at the hosts. Ajmal was seen walking up towards Strauss, asking the England captain to mind his own business. Strauss walked, head down, towards the other end.

Situations such as today's are when a cricketer reveals his character. Zulqarnain, who was picked ahead of Kamran Akmal, could not properly celebrate his debut because his father was in a coma in hospital after contracting Hepatitis C. Syed Raza Haider only regained consciousness on the day the tour selectors picked his son in the team for the second Test. But today the senior Haider watched his son's stoic battle with the English from the hospital bed on TV. He would've been proud of Zulqarnain keeping his head high throughout.

It was double joy for Zulqarnain as the four that got him his maiden fifty also took Pakistan past England and put them into the lead. A more important stat came at the end of the day. In their last 15 Tests over the last two years, Pakistan have batted for 100-plus overs in an innings only five times. It is a damning indictment of their ever-failing top-order. But by the end of the day Pakistan had batted for more overs than in any other Test in 2010.

All three of their lower-order batsmen showed a distinct quality which was sorely missing from the specialists: Zulqarnain, Amir and Ajmal showed the hunger to stay at the crease. They took the blows, the opposition taunts, and battled the pitch and the conditions with a poker face permanently in place. England hated being dominated in such a manner.

"Frustrations arise from the fact that all through the series we have taken wickets at regular intervals and very quick and very easily almost. So when two guys apply themselves that is when our standards drop. But all credit to Pakistan," Swann said of Pakistan's fightback. He even admitted that watching his opposite number Ajmal get his half-century gave "perverse pleasure".

Butt, grim faced on the previous evening, was all smiles today and said he and the other batsmen has a lot to learn from the lower-order today. "It is remarkable the way he played," he said of Zulqarnain. "And he has shown us all that if you are willing to stay there and take the pain there is surely gain."

For the first time this series, Pakistan played proper Test cricket today. They tested England's patience and came out on top. Pakistan might not win the Test, but this particular battle belonged entirely to them.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 9, 2010, 13:07 GMT

    For a change Pakistan now have a batsman in Haider and a wicket keeper instead of goal keeper

  • Faisal on August 9, 2010, 12:19 GMT

    Quoting Mr. Miller, "Pakistan's chances of fightback in this match are as small as Zlqarnain's current Test average". I guess Zulqarnain read your column. loll!!!

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

    I am really impressed with this new guy Zulqarnain, good batting and also see some natural instincts in this wicket keeping which I believe will improve once he gets more confidence. His batting has also shown to top order that don't frustrate once you miss few swinging deliveries and play on your own condition. Test match is that you defend bowlers good deliveries and force him to bowl on your strength. Make them tired and runs will always be on offer once you stay on wicket. Good luck to this guy and also to Kamran Akmal to improve his batting and keeping and create a healthy competition in the team like Moeen and Rashid Lateed used to have. Overall some competition shown by Pakistan and hope they will improve in next matches. On the other note, I still believe that they should bring in Younis Khan back in tests and make a combination of young and experience, otherwise young guys will lose their confidence with such defeats.

  • Sikandar on August 9, 2010, 12:06 GMT

    Good for Pakistan that they found Zulquarnain in place of Kamran! Hope Umar K is not disgruntled that his bro is not in the team [Umar is struglling OR is it?]. Having said that, it is pathetic to see STUART BOARD got away with less penalty! Is this because his dad is in the higher ranks?? Stuart needs a reality check..just llike Indian YUVI! What if some sub-contient players does the same tantrum on an English/Aussie player? Do you think he will face with the same fine????

  • Vipul on August 9, 2010, 11:45 GMT

    Hats off To Zulqernain and Aamer! what application and determination shown by these two. Whatever the result of this test match, their performance would have certainly given a lot of hope to the Pakistani team. Aamer already must be among the top five all-rounders around.

  • Sabirali on August 9, 2010, 11:09 GMT

    I like the way of fighting spirit by Zulqairnain, Amir & Ajmal.It does't metter whether they are going to lose .Pakistan has found the Good Batsman Wicket Keeper,The way low orders played at least Now,Top orders has shamed themselves...Selection Board and Coaches must be back cricketers like Zulqarnain , Ajmal. As Fan of Cricket, I must say that remove such player like Shoiab Malik, Kamran Akmal, Imran Farhat,Believe me, that if i could imagine captaincy of Legend Imran Khan then I'm sure that these BAKWAAS Cricketers has been disappeared. Kamran thinks as he is Adam Gilcrist (Wearing the glasses & standing behind wicket is not way of Adam) .Dear Malik Shab Dont you think that you should change your professional ....Better Participate is Men/Women Double In Tennis with Wife (Sania Mirza). Oh Farhat, How is your Head ? So sad !!!!!! I heared that you are British Citizen....then Please for God shake Leave Pakistan Team and find out place in english county. I'm sorry but KYA KAREY ?

  • Bobby on August 9, 2010, 10:36 GMT

    Absolutely agree with everything written. In recent times Pakistan has been missing the customary fight that had made Pakistani cricket team of pasts to win from near death situations. Zulqarnain has proven to be a MAN among the boy. Superb innings. He not only outscored every English batsman but he also out psyched them. He has touches of Javed Miandad..A brual shrewed fighter... Zulqarnain also had a decent wicket keeping stint..Actually excellent compared to Kamran Akmal. Lets do not forget amazing effort of Saeed Ajmal. It is a time to get rid of dead wood such as Imran Farhat and Shoib Mailk. These pretenders do not desrve a place. Kamran Akmal should never again play for Pakistan. He has given pain and misry to entire nation. Imagine if Pakistan could have won Sydney test. While Umar Akmal is over rated and should also be dropped. It is time to bring back Yousaf, Younis, Yasir, Asim Kamal and Khurram Manzoor…! Future is bright! This failure will see seeds for long term harvest.

  • mohammad on August 9, 2010, 10:05 GMT

    "and he has shown us all that if you are willing to stay there and take the pain there is gain"- Pak captain. My question to you, "did Mohammad yousuf and Mohammad Younus not shown you in 20-30 tests you played together that you have to stay in the crease? Why do you need to learn that after so many tests?

  • Riaz on August 9, 2010, 9:52 GMT

    surely Salamn will come out with some more excuses for his failure, seniors and junior's failure. His statement "give guys some thime" should extend "give 4-5 years to me , my seniors and juniors" to establish. we all are talented bunch. shame on him making these remarks and illusioning all of the failures of all bats including himself. Atleast now he should pick the proven players with some fresh legs to lead this kind of fightback.Salman show your love for your country. pick yousuf and yasir. drop malik and Umar akmal, if you want to give amin and azhar more chances.Malik is just a waste and Umar should be sitting out to see what test cricket is all about.Let him play 40-50 oneday matches them include him in test. Look what indis does. they played Yuvi and Raina for almost 100 matches before they found the temperament of test cricket.Umar is good talent but only for onedayers as he gets aay with his risky shots in that type of fielding format. Boths changed Kamran and Kaneria worked.

  • Dummy4 on August 9, 2010, 9:25 GMT

    I think Broad should have been banned atleast for one test match.

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