May 8, 2001

Saqlain Mushtaq leaves Derbyshire in a spin

Saqlain Mushtaq
Saqlain Mushtaq
Photo © CricInfo

Shoaib Akhtar made his comeback at Derby but was nudged out of the spotlight by Saqlain Mushtaq who routed a weakened Derbyshire side.

The Pakistan off-spinner took 6-34 to destroy the county who had top batsmen Rob Bailey and Michael Di Venuto ruled out by injury along with four other first team regulars.

Derbyshire had only three capped players in their XI and were no match for Saqlain who ran through them for the second time in 10 months.

Last August at The Oval he claimed 7-11 for Surrey and although this performance was less dramatic, it was still an impressive spell of bowling on a chilly day.

It also showed that the Pakistan spin attack is in good working order ahead of next week's Lord's Test following Mushtaq Ahmed's demolition of the British Universities at Trent Bridge.

Before Saqlain weaved his spell, the main attraction was Shoaib who only arrived in England on Monday afternoon. He looked like a man who had just stepped off a plane in his first spell of five overs which was slow and undistinguished.

His second burst of seven overs was more significant as he deceived Mathew Dowman with a slow knee high full toss and then found reverse swing to pin Chris Bassano lbw on his debut.

Dowman's 36 was the top score but Cork batted for 19 overs for 27 before he was lbw sweeping at Saqlain who before lunch had Luke Sutton taken at silly point for 26.

Karl Krikken was caught behind for a duck and after a 20 minute stoppage for bad light, Saqlain polished off the tail, taking his last three wickets in seven balls and narrowly missing out on a hat-trick.

Pakistan openers Mohammed Wasim and Imran Farhat faced only 2.4 overs before bad light ended play early on a day when 35.2 overs were lost.

Afterwards, Derbyshire captain, Dominic Cork was generous in appraising Shoaib's performance.

"He only landed yesterday and it was always going to be difficult to get straight off a plane from a hot country like Pakistan and run in and bowl quick on a slow wicket like that," Cork reasoned.

"He's going to start steadily building up and he has two matches now to put his hat in the ring for their Test side. They have a good dilemma because they have plenty of choice in their attack and they all bowl quite quickly."

With the eyes of the selectors upon him, Cork also expressed satisfaction at his own performance: "It's obviously a slow wicket, but I generated decent pace and I'm quite happy with that. I've had not problems with the back, although I think most cricketers have suffered a bit with the heavy grounds in the legs."