June 4, 2001

Pakistan level series as England collapse in final session

Dave Edmundson

Pakistan levelled the npower Test series with a 108-run victory over England deep into the final hour of this gripping Test match. England lost eight wickets in the final session as Pakistan utilised the second new ball to perfection, and wrapped up a win that had seemed most unlikely just 90 minutes earlier.

The intensity and theatre of the first four days at Old Trafford continued right to the end of a pulsating final session and a second England collapse. A sensational one handed catch by substitute fielder Imran Nazir off a full blooded Gough drive to bring Pakistan victory perfectly encapsulated everything about this cracking match.

There was controversy too though. Television replays showed clearly that a couple of Saqlain's victims came from deliveries that should have been called as no-balls as the off-spinner overstepped.

It was with mid-way through the final session when the dramatic twist arrived to finally determine the outcome of this match. The new ball was taken, and with Waqar's second delivery, he cleaned up Graham Thorpe, the England lynchpin and hero of the first innings, his off stump sent cartwheeling.

Trescothick's excellent innings was ended by a Wasim bouncer, the ball taking the gloves on the way to Latif, diving down the leg side. Stewart was deceived by Saqlain and dismissed lbw not offering a stroke, soon to be followed by the luckless Knight as Wasim assumed a mode Lancashire fans know well with a sudden change of gear.

A Pakistan victory was in the air. Ward edged Saqlain behind, Caddick lost his off stump first ball to the 'doosra' and England were teetering on the edge having lost four wickets for one run with Saqlain on a hat trick and Darren Gough on strike. Close fielders crowded the batsmen, several appeals pressurising the umpire. Saqlain who had bowled 41 overs before getting a wicket was suddenly unplayable. Wasim, meanwhile, was spearing in at full throttle from the Stretford end. It was epic stuff.

Waqar replaced Wasim and Gough and Cork dug in. The game plan was for Cork to take the spin, Gough the speed. A brief but exciting interlude followed before Cork pushed out to Saqlain and to Pakistan's delight umpire Shepherd's finger went up. Only Hoggard to come, and finally enter Nazir.

The loss of Michael Atherton fifteen minutes before lunch was probably the pivotal point when England decided not to push for victory. Waqar Younis produced his trademark yorker to clean bowl Atherton after the England opener had recorded his 44th Test half-century. Marcus Trescothick had outscored his partner considerably in the opening stand of 141, and grows in stature with every Test.

He moved inexorably towards his first Test century in England, and his second in all. That milestone was passed with a glide to leg off Waqar but Vaughan, meanwhile had looked uncomfortable. Waqar was taunting him but it was Razzaq who got him caught behind.

The runs had dried up and England, settling for a draw and the series win, were content to score just 47 runs from the 29 overs bowled in the afternoon session. The match appeared to be meandering along until the spectacular finale.

A magnificent Test match will be remembered principally for the centurions: Inzamam, Thorpe and Trescothick; for scintillating stroke play, vintage Waqar, Wasim, and Saqlain the emergence of Hoggard, wonderful crowds, a fabulous pitch and, above all the concluding suspense.

Afterwards England's skipper for this game, Alec Stewart, paid tribute to man-of-the-match and Pakistan's man of the series, Inzamam-ul-Haq.

"Inzamam was probably the difference. He played exceptionally well and took the game away from us," he said.

Pakistan skipper Waqar Younis was understandably delighted, and pointed out the quality of the Old Trafford pitch as a vital ingredient in the gripping encounter over the last five days, commenting that it was: "the best pitch we have played on."

"We've had a bad year, year and a half, so this victory really pumps us up for the one-day series. It's very good for the team," he continued.

"Pakistan have got a habit of coming back in the last session. Everybody bowled well, we fielded well - everything was perfect."