England v Pakistan, 3rd npower Test, The Oval, 4th day August 21, 2010

Pakistan find their mojo

Incredibly, what had seemed to be a summer of growing discontent for Pakistan on the eve of the third Test has now transformed into a summer of hope

It had been feared that Pakistan might stumble in what appeared to be a simple chase today, and that's just what happened. Pakistan started with a swagger, abruptly plunged into a brief freefall, followed by a phase of uncertainty where the batsmen acted as if all roads to victory had been closed, before bursting into life in the nick of time to sneak onto the victory podium.

In the end, though, Pakistan not only won the match, they won every one of the four days at The Oval. Before this series Andrew Strauss suggested, correctly, that inconsistency from one session to the next was Pakistan's weakness in Test cricket. If this win has taught Pakistan anything, it is the importance of retaining focus for every session in a Test; keeping a poker face in tense situations, and patiently drilling the opponent's door open with persistence and cunning. Many youngsters in Pakistan cricket, primarily the batsmen, are tempted by Twenty20 cricket. They need to realise that if Twenty20 is a brash western then Test cricket is a Russian novel, offering rich rewards only to those willing to invest plenty of time and concentration.

From the first day of this Test, Pakistan set about correcting their myriad mistakes over the summer: they fielded vigorously, Kamran Akmal atoned for most of his mistakes by taking catches with more assurance and confidence (holding one less than the record nine he held at Kingston in 2005). The batsmen showed more resolve and positive intent, resulting in more partnerships than at any point on the tour and allowing the tourists to log 300 in an innings for the first time in two months.

Pakisan's success was not incidental. It was well planned. The coaching think tank of Waqar Younis, Ijaz Ahmed and Aaqib Javed persuaded Butt to drop one rung in the batting ladder to introduce a right/left opening combination in Yasir Hameed and Imran Farhat. Hameed's aggressive knock in the first innings instilled a belief that both the pitch and bowlers could be countered with the right will.

Of course, it helped that Mohammad Yousf re-discovered his mojo almost straight away on return to Test cricket after his controversial retirement earlier in the year. His presence gave Pakistan stability. His experience lent direction to the other batsmen. He made batting easy rather than burdensome. The youngsters flocked to him in the dressing room and on the pitch for enlightenment. A fine example was Azhar Ali, the main architect behind Pakistan's taking of a first-innings lead for the first time on the tour, who was unfortunate to miss out on a maiden century in his fifth Test. He took over the baton from Yousuf and made sure Pakistan did not collapse.

On the second afternoon, with the new ball just a few overs away Umar Akmal launched a furious attack that brought a valuable 38 runs to dominate the 56-run stand with Azhar for the sixth wicket. Then Azhar stitched together a 38-run stand with No. 11 Mohammad Asif to bolster the lead. Such minor alliances were the bricks that built Pakistan's momentum and frustrated England.

Today as the sun pushed its way past the corrugated iron sheet of cloud to smile on the tourists, Farhat and Butt set about chasing the small target fervently in front of another noisy and partisan crowd. The two southpaws gathered singles feverishly, their feet and their bats moving automatically into the right positions. Perhaps, that is what a positive mind does. That is what the sensing of victory does.

But Pakistan need to thank another man for this momentous victory. Saeed Ajmal may already have established himself as Pakistan's premier spinner, pushing aside the woefully out-of-form Danish Kaneria. Importantly, he has tormented the English batsmen with his doosra, which Butt admitted was difficult even for the Pakistanis to pick because Ajmal delivers his straighter one and the other 'un with the same hand action.

At Edgbaston he made an immediate impact with a five-for in England's first innings. Here, he completed a match haul of five wickets, with four vital scalps in England's second innings as he and Mohammad Amir combined to all but bundle England out in the final session yesterday. Graeme Swann is clearly the best spinner in the world but on present form Ajmal is not far behind.

Suddenly, Pakistan have more than one matchwinner in the bowling department, with Asif and Amir joined by Ajmal and Wahab Riaz, the left-arm quick who bagged five wickets on debut. Incredibly, what seemed to be a summer of growing discontent for Pakistan on the eve of the third Test has now transformed into a summer of hope.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Muthuvel on August 26, 2010, 10:38 GMT

    bring younis back , this is silly, as much as i want to see Eng win, what is pak thinking by not playing their best 11.

  • Sanjay on August 24, 2010, 2:43 GMT

    @Faisal Mashood Afridi India have won a test series in Sri lanka in 1994 please check the facts before making comments, its they who not even managed a single win in India in test matches and a lot of other countries but their fans talk like they have achieved more than even the aussie team...

  • Zubair on August 23, 2010, 17:47 GMT

    Since there are a lot of Indian brothers poking their noses here, I am going to let slip a top secret indian belief out today ...being an Indian myself I admit on behalf of ALL the INDIAN fans that it is more FUN and EXCITEMENT watching pakistan play than our own team. Even a pakistan loss is more exciting than a boring Indian win..sorry guys I had to say this out loud :)

  • Nivek on August 23, 2010, 17:30 GMT

    @Faisal Mashood Afridi... the first part of my comment didnt come out. If it comes out and you are not a biased supporter, then you will get what I mean. Cheers.

  • Adil on August 23, 2010, 17:16 GMT

    I would like to thank you Nagraj Gollapudi for your enthusiastic columns and comments for all summer. Pakistan needed this positive and enthusiastic support from some one outside of the country and you helped fans like me a lot. Pakistan's perofrmance was good in patches, but your columns sure kept me going and kept my faith in the team. Your columns always focus of the half full glass. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that. I hope you will keep writing with your usual positive approach.

  • Dummy4 on August 23, 2010, 16:56 GMT

    @ nivek123: that loss depended on certain factors. There was a lot of infighting in the team. We dominated that series. We needed 80 to win with 8 wickets in hand but lost and we were leading by 150 with 8 wickets in hand and managed to get out with a lead of 192. Plus there was Murali present in all 3 games. That was an unstable team, if you want a really want a fair comparison, try the team that toured there in 2006. We won that series, which is something India has never ever done.

  • khurram on August 23, 2010, 16:22 GMT

    @hindh88 i never mention that pak is no.1 team and wins every other match like most of u guyz claim time n again. it is really big thing that u ppl are still in position of commenting something after shameful defeat against srilanka. and anyway pak batting although not as strong as indian (over hyped by its fans) but believe me will never destroy by someone with parera's pace. dambulla pitch may be unpredictable but current srilankan n kiwis attack is no more than mediocre so hopefully now u will realize that who speaks n comments rubbish

  • Dummy4 on August 23, 2010, 16:13 GMT

    Well I must add the brilliance of English cricketers, fans, commentators and officials, I guess they are the only nation that love to see close combats and enjoy genuine good cricket, that is the spirit of cricket at its best...

    And a real shame on BCCI for involving politics and their strong cricket economy in each and every series they play, bullying other boards, hiding their cheats, interfering in every team or ground matter and on a mission to destroy cricket itself, the result after Australia they are another hated side despite on the top these days... and I think the cricket journalist should appreciate MCC and English Cricketing entities hats off to you guys ... cheers

  • Imran on August 23, 2010, 15:01 GMT

    hope our selectors will include Imran Nazir in the WC. I miss u Younis Khan in this seires.

  • Nivek on August 23, 2010, 14:33 GMT

    Pak lost 2-0 in Sri Lanka. So when its India who are so obviously better in the last few years, I really don't understand what you are talking about. Ireally understand there are some Indians coming here and writing un-needed comments and you guys are getting agitated, but this is a public site. So just ignore them, there are so many Indians who are proud of you win too. I really didn't want to bring the teams respective records into it, but you made me do it. Anyways I kind of feel sorry for fanatics like you though. Cheers

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