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August 25, 2010
Pakistan dare not hesitate now. There are bound to be nerves and uneasiness ahead of the fourth Test at Lord's, but this may not be the worst thing for a brash young side raised on the easy thrills of Twenty20 cricket. This is not the moment to be overconfident. Pakistan would be best advised to hold a healthy respect for the task that lies ahead of them, as England will not hand over the series without a serious fight.
Exactly a month ago, despite a nerve-shattering win over Australia at Headingley, Pakistan walked into the England series as the weaker opponent. Over the following two weeks, at Trent Bridge and then Edgbaston, their batsmen stood numb against James Anderson's prodigious swing, their fielders forgot they had hands to catch the ball and many people were starting to predict a 4-0 whitewash.
Yet at The Oval, the site of the controversial 2006 Test, Pakistan played with belief and a hunger to win at all costs. Suddenly they had more than one matchwinner in their ranks. Their fast bowlers, who had carried the entire team up to that point, had some of the burden taken off their shoulders as the batsmen began to show some support. Almost every catch was held, and suddenly it was England who had more questions with Pakistan having found the answers to their problems.
If Pakistan have managed not to be sucked in by the whirlpool of instability in their home country it is only because of the wise and mature leadership of Waqar Younis and Salman Butt. Both men remained level-headed regardless of Pakistan's roller coaster ride on this exhaustive six-Test tour. As Pakistan enter the final match as equals for the first time this summer, once again it will be these two who will have to help the side find their feet as quickly as possible on unfamiliar territory.
"We know the slopes and from where the winds comes. If we can play to our potential I do believe we can beat them and level the series," Butt said with an assured smile, but without arrogance.
Having touched both defeat and victory Butt's philosophy is to see his glass as half full. "There is no need of going very high or very low. What we have to do is stick to our basics and do our best," he said.
Pakistan have never bounced back in a live series after being 2-0 down, and it is five years since they won consecutive Tests. Those wins were spread over two different Test series: the first achieved in Kingston against the West Indies in July 2005 followed by the narrow 22-run defeat they inflicted on England in Multan three months later.
They couldn't have picked a better venue to try and re-write history: Lord's has a rich history of inspiring visiting cricketers and can inspire the most insipid of cricket fans. After the victory last week Butt stressed about the importance of history and how that can motivate young players. The walls at Lord's are steeped in more than two centuries of historic performances.
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