Pakistan wilt after spirit dries up
Is it that shocking? Another Pakistan batting collapse? Not really. Pakistan have batted with a defeatist mindset in this Test. If technique, concentration, bloody-mindedness, patience and aggression are the nuts and bolts of successful batsmen then most in this line-up team fall well short of the requirements.
Two-and-a-half hours is all it took England to demolish them in the first innings. It was not a period when the tourists offered resistance because that would have involved them stonewalling, putting a price on a wicket and not being submissive. It was not the first instance of a team collapsing so quickly this summer. Australia, England, Pakistan have all succumbed in much more demanding conditions where the ball was swinging "at the corners" as Graeme Swann described. In fact, Pakistan bowlers triggered quite a few of those downfalls themselves.
However, on Saturday Lord's was bathed in bright sunshine. Richie Benaud was there and his verdict: "it is a wonderful day." It was as a sell-out crowd started the bank holiday weekend in a joyous mood, clapping and urging the overnight pair of Jonathan Trott and Stuart Broad to extend their record-breaking stand. The conditions were dry as England sprinkled further salt into those gaping wounds left open on the Pakistan mindsets by adding a further 100 runs.
Still, if Pakistan remained hopeful it was because they had batted purposefully in the victory at The Oval last week. It was the first time Pakistan had crossed 300 runs in an innings. Incredibly, they had even managed to take a lead, a feat that seemed beyond their frail batting line-up earlier on the tour. The return of Mohammad Yousuf proved a good omen as Pakistan's most experienced batsman lent guidance and direction to his younger colleagues. Everybody chipped in and, then, Pakistan seriously threatened to level the series yesterday.
When England were stuttering at 102 for 7 on Thursday morning, overwhelmed by Mohammad Amir's magical spells of bowling, Pakistan had control of this match. But as the minutes ticked by Trott bonded with Broad to irritate, frustrate and eventually dominate the Pakistan bowlers and their captain Salman Butt. It was an astonishing fightback, which mentally exhausted the tourists. Not only did the Trott-Broad alliance break various records, it simultaneously broke their opponent's will during a six-and-a-half-hours vigil. By the time they arrived to bat, Pakistan were devoid of any ideas, completely numbed by the slow torture.
"A lot of it [Pakistan's first innings collapse] is to do with that [Trott and Broad's partnership]," Swann, who helped himself to five wickets, said. "At lunchtime yesterday [Friday] the Pakistan top four would all have been mentally rehearsing batting and the fact they were still doing that five hours later has got to have a very negative effect on them."
But that partnership was only half the reason Pakistan seemed hopeless. The other striking, and more dangerous, part was the weak frame of mind. None of the batsmen showed the focus and guts to build a fight. For that to happen they would need to stay at the wicket - Pakistan lost their last seven wickets in 56 minutes. If England had showed the character from the depths of despair, Pakistan wilted like a dead chrysanthemum.
Earlier in the series, every time his batting unit flopped Butt justified it by reasoning Pakistan were not the only ones to crumble under pressure. True, in testing conditions even England's batsmen had been exposed consistently by Pakistan's fast bowlers, but each time the home side were under the pump they found a man or two to stand up and take the pressure. That is why Trott, Broad and Matt Prior have topped the series batting charts because they have found a way past the conditions and the bowler.
On Thursday, at the time when the partnership with Broad was still in its infancy, Trott studiously left alone numerous deliveries even if they were pitched on a driving length or short and wide. He laid down his own rules and lived by it until he was caught as he cashed late runs, 16 short of becoming the first batsman to get two double centuries at Lord's. His hunger, dedication and determination have come as a result of countless hours in first-class cricket and net sessions. Pakistan's distracted young batsmen can learn a lot from him.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo