June 7, 2001

Pakistan heading for comfortable victory

Penetrating bowling from Pakistan's seamers and the pressure of a large target have resulted in the lights dimming on England's chances of winning this game - even before the floodlights have come into effect.

Wasim and Waqar opened the bowling, hurtling in from the Pavilion and City ends respectively, as England began their reply to Pakistan's large total of 273-6 in the first match of the NatWest Series of 2001.

Trescothick guided Waqar through the covers for the first boundary of the innings but then chipped the ball in the air between the fielders at mid-wicket and mid on. He followed that with a flat-footed swish outside off stump that had the slip cordon holding their hands over their heads in exasperation.

Waqar beat him outside the off stump but the Somerset left-hander responded with a burly heave past mid-wicket for four. He must have been perilously close to being given lbw to Waqar in the eighth over, but responded in fine style, cutting the next ball through cover for four.

Brown, too, escaped a mistimed push over the infield, but didn't live to prosper from this fortune as, attempting to angle the ball through point, he snicked Waqar to the 'keeper.

Local favourite Knight was the new batsman. He played and missed at his first balls from both Waqar and Wasim, who was delivering a hostile spell, and it took nine balls to get off the mark - and then thanks to three overthrows. But a force off the back foot for four seemed to rile Wasim and several times in the ninth over the bowler had angry words with the Warwickshire player.

Trescothick produced a lovely stroke in the following over, skipping down the pitch and driving Waqar straight for four and he seemed to be settling. But Waqar had the last laugh as two balls later Trescothick got a leading edge to a slower ball and succeeded only in skying the ball to Younis Khan at point.

Stand-in skipper Alex Stewart was the new man to the crease. He quickly cover-drove Waqar for four but the run-rate rose to six per over as the batsmen took stock. Azhar Mahmood replaced Waqar at the City end, and Abdur Razzaq took over from Wasim, who left the field for treatment on his left shoulder, from the Pavilion end.

Knight responded with a cut for four off Mahmood and as the fielding restrictions were lifted at the 15-over mark the score stood on 61-2. Miserly spells followed from both bowlers and the pressure forced Stewart into an uppish drive off Mahmood. A wonderful, diving catch by the substitute fielder, Shoaib Malik, taking the ball as he was parallel to the ground at short cover made the score 69-3. Stewart had gone for ten.

In the next over Razzaq defeated Knight twice with the fastest deliveries of the day, and then saw a good appeal for lbw turned down as the batsman shouldered arms. It was about survival now for Vaughan and Knight, and the first boundary for six overs was greeted with relief by the English supporters.

A top edge as Knight attempted to make room against Razzaq resulted in a let-off on the point boundary when the batsman had 25. Saqlain skidded on the lush outfield and dropped a chance he seemed to have under control. But Pakistan didn't have to wait for long. Vaughan fell in identical fashion to Stewart, caught brilliantly at short cover by Saeed Anwar attempting to loft Mahmood to leave the score on 86-4.

Enter Collingwood for his first international innings on the ground where he hit a career-best score a few weeks ago. They weren't the easiest of circumstances, however, with the rate approaching seven an over and the Durham all-rounder could manage only two before being trapped lbw, playing around a straight one from Razzaq.

Knight provided more resistance with a flowing cover drive for four off Razzaq, and Hollioake brought up the 100 in the 25th over with an edge through point, but at the halfway mark Pakistan are clear favourites to wrap up a comfortable victory.