England v Pakistan, 4th npower Test, Lord's, 2nd day August 27, 2010

Amir's inspiration not enough for Pakistan

Mohammad Amir wrecked England's middle order and was the youngest bowler to get his name on the honours board at Lord's
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An ambulance screeched past the Grace Gates at Lord's as Mohammad Amir started the first over of the day from the Pavilion End. The impact of those loud sirens lingered long in the ears of the thousands clustered inside the ground as Amir shot out the England middle order with the ruthlessness of a sniper. His attack was cold-blooded, quiet and quick. All of England shivered on an overcast Friday morning.

Having been unlucky during the brief spell of play possible on the first day, when a hapless Umar Akmal dropped an easy offering from Alastair Cook, Amir returned today undaunted and not haunted. Also, he was that bit smarter after Waqar Younis, Pakistan's coach, had suggested he bowl a little closer to the stumps having noticed him going wider on Thursday afternoon.

A quick learner Amir did not break any sweat in adopting the suggestion. In his first three overs of the day he fired in one unplayable delivery after the other, casting a spell over a startled England line up. Cook, who seemed to have crushed his demons at Edgbaston with a resolute century, was forced to play the perfect outswinger which he duly edged to Kamran Akmal behind the stumps.

The fact that Kevin Pietersen was hunting in the dark for fluency was not lost on Amir as he slanted a fuller and wider delivery that was thoughtlessly chased leaving Pietersen to pay the price. Paul Collingwood was next, going back deep in the crease only to be beaten by an in-ducker that swung in sharply to trap him in front. Amir then proved that Eoin Morgan still has plenty to learn at Test level as he drew Morgan into an outside edge third ball. Amir's mind never stopped ticking and England looked in danger of folding for a total under 100 for the first time this summer.

Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior persevered to avoid that ignominy but Amir achieved a personal landmark when he induced the England wicketkeeper to edge a delivery that straightened late after pitching. It was Amir's 50th Test wicket. He may not be the quickest to the landmark, but his statistics reveal a young talent that is unique. In his 14th Test, Amir's strike-rate is 55.6 with 51 wickets. It compares well with some of the best fast bowlers of this generation: Wasim Akram (63.7/45), Waqar Younis (38.7/71), Dale Steyn (42/61) and his team-mate Mohammad Asif (44.2/70). Just 18 years old, Amir is already walking the same path the good and great started out on.

Numbers, though, aren't a true reflection of Amir, who is on the shortlist for ICC's Emerging Player of the Year. It is his fighting attitude, his perseverance, his knack of reading batsman's grey areas, and his ability to ignore the woeful fielding mistakes that stand out like logos of prestigious brands. It means the captain can depend on him regardless of the conditions. The captain can throw him the ball when the situation is getting out of hand. The captain can walk up to him to seek advice. Champions prove pressure builds them and Amir is already a matchwinner.

Earlier in the summer, against Australia at Headingley, on the first morning in severely overcast conditions, he put Pakistan in the winning position straight away by rattling the Australians into submission. Then, in the third Test of this series at The Oval, in far brighter light on the third afternoon, on a true pitch, he worked hard on the ball to get the reverse swing to trigger England's sudden collapse and put Pakistan in a winning position.

A critical element of Amir's success is he enjoys his bowling immensely, just as he is enthusiastic about targeting the opposition's best batsmen. Even if he is only a teenager in Test cricket he already has an enviable list of victims: Ricky Ponting and Andrew Strauss (four times in four matches); Collingwood and Cook (three times in four matches); Michael Hussey (three times in four matches).

Sadly for him, and Pakistan, the day did not end in the rousing fashion it had begun. Butt missed a trick when Amir and Asif had England under the cosh before lunch. Instead of having fielders at vital close-in positions such as a third or fourth slip, an extra gully and a short leg, Butt showed his inexperience by wasting men at thirdman, deep point and deep square-leg. The wilting English hearts suddenly started swelling with hope and by the end of the day it was England who held the edge in the final Test. "If we were 110 all out this Test series would end two-all," said Stuart Broad, who got his name on the honours board at Lord's with a maiden Test century.

Amir, the youngest bowler to get a five-for at Lord's (he became the youngest to achieve the feat in England at The Oval last week), was proud but pointed out it was disappointing to end the day behind England. "It was special day considering I got the best figures in my career but I'm a little sad because they are [now] in good position. Now we are on the backfoot."

Yet Amir and Asif, his comrade-in-arms, who was unlucky not to take a wicket today despite delivering his usual stack of marvels, will return unfazed in the second innings to create panic in the minds of the batsmen. Renowned for their unpredictability, Pakistan can be certain of that.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Usman on August 28, 2010, 10:19 GMT

    well done SALMAN ...u broke inzi's record for passive mentalities....infact no one in this world till the end of this world can be so passive & defensive....as u were yesterday.....u dumped amir's heroics...u dumped his struggle..u dumped the chance to tie the series....u guyz dont deserve to win thats all.

  • Samuel on August 28, 2010, 9:38 GMT

    Pipsonian - it's not a deliberate attempt at time wasting, it just makes him feel comfortable. I was at the match yesterday and thought it would be a problem, but all the overs were gotten in before the cut-off time, and there were 108 to be bowled in the day. He only spends time doing it at the end of the over, and the Pakistani seamers weren't exactly rushing back to their marks and itching to bowl in the final session either. And that absurd rule you propose would limit both play against spin and pace - there should be a balance between bat and ball yes, and it's been too long in favour of the bat, but the way to resolve it is not by making batsmen into walking wickets. Oh, and for the sake of cheeky argument about time wasting, I give you Moeen Kahn... :P

  • Dummy4 on August 28, 2010, 9:25 GMT

    Somebody said a few days ago about Amir-Asif pair they can not replace Wasim- Waqar pair. To which I said that the pair W-W is already replaced by the pair A-A. will that friend would like to agree with me now?. But I would also say that Pakistan under Salman Butt is not a winning format. Not to say that Salman is any less a talented member of the team but he certainly lacks experience. we do miss Yunus khan here but then what Yousuf was doing. Couldn't he pass a word of suggestion to the captain?. Of course Yousuf himself has not added anything to his credit as a captain still he has a backing of cricketing experience and perhaps lot more than Butt. If pakistan looses this game (and chances are more ) the blame would go straight away on the Cricket bosses for ignoring younus khan.

  • Ashirvadh on August 28, 2010, 8:58 GMT

    u know raj it might happen. ind and pak vs rest of the world for charity in pak

  • Amahl on August 28, 2010, 8:41 GMT

    A truly remarkable performance, made all the more remarkable by its eventual waste through a spectacular recovery which only serves to undermine the impact and quality of this performance and further underline the frailties of Pakistan cricket. It is so disappointing that Pakistan wasted such an incredible performance and subsequently, a significant opportunity. I really don't believe Pakistan have the mental strength to recover from this. No credit should be taken away from Trott and Broad though, both of whom batted brilliantly against top bowlers. But one cannot help but think how Pakistan could let another miraculous opportunity bite the dust.

  • RAJANEESH on August 28, 2010, 7:44 GMT

    Just imagine the kind of team we might have had if India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were united!! Sigh.. I day dream way too much..

  • Dummy4 on August 28, 2010, 7:09 GMT

    aamir did a great job.But idont know what was salman butt doing

  • Dummy4 on August 28, 2010, 5:27 GMT

    amir bowled really well as they rattled eng middle order but butt captaincy has let the team down and lose the grip of the match.

  • Nagaraja on August 28, 2010, 4:51 GMT

    Well, Amir's heroics may not have been sufficient to bundle out England, but he has proved that Pakistan bowlers can be a serious threat to any side. If India are to nurture any hopes for 2011 world cup, they have to bring back Rahul Dravid. In the current team, let alone the likes of Virat Kohli / Rohit Sharma / Yuvraj Singh who are guaranteed to fail, even the likes of Gautam Gambhir and Suresh Raina are not likely to perform against such quality pace bowling.

  • Dummy4 on August 28, 2010, 4:36 GMT

    Well aamir is the best thing that has happend to pakistan after wasim and waqar . a true strike bowler. the article has said it that he has the making of a great fast bowler for the future

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