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July 14, 2006
The sun shone, Pakistan were missing enough frontline bowlers to supply several ICC member countries with a genuine spearhead, the fielders looked flat, the pitch looked flatter (until their top order got in, more of which later); days like this generally denote one thing for Pakistan. Roll out Danish Kaneria.
There have been many such days over the last two years - in Australia, India, West Indies, at home. Each time, Kaneria has been called upon as a sort of tacit acceptance by his captain. "Nothing's going right. Danish settle yourself in at this end. You're not going anywhere." And settle in he does, doing the job of two men. He checks the flow of runs and looks to pick up a wicket every now and again.
He bowled through the afternoon session, as he does regularly, picking up the wickets denied to him yesterday and halted, to an extent, England's progress. In the process, he also clocked up a marathon 52 overs for the innings.
People still ask questions about his bowling, which is fair enough. Michael Atherton asked where his flipper is on TV to which Kaneria would undoubtedly retort `Precisely where Shane Warne's googly is.' But when so much was not going right for Pakistan, Kaneria's presence at one end had a hypnotic calm about it; no matter how many runs Mohammad Sami or Umar Gul gave the over before, you knew Kaneria would come on next over and give away a trickle, may be even beat the bat occasionally.
No one, though, can question his love for bowling. Rashid Latif said once he had never seen anyone who loved bowling quite so much and it is hard to challenge the assertion. So much does he love it, in fact, that since July 2004 he has bowled on average, just over 48 overs a game. Among his ilk - Anil Kumble, Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan - he is second only to Kumble and just ahead of Warne on that count.
Fittingly, he has a little of Kumble's persistence and a touch of Warne's guile and bravado. He has, of course, as his presence in the field shows, plenty of his own, utterly unique style. Monty Panesar may have had it easy in the `spot the clown' stakes thus far in his career but he is up against an old hand in Kaneria. And unless Panesar can match Kaneria's party trick from this morning - kicking the ball over the boundary and straight into some piping, where it disappeared for a couple of minutes, while attempting to field it - it won't even get close.
Better though for an inexperienced spinner like Panesar to emulate Kaneria's unflagging spirit, which typifies much of what Pakistan has done over the last two years. They've had good days and he's been there and they've had bad days like today and he's been in the thick of them as well. It's strange in a sense because, to an observer, generally, he doesn't seem entirely in sync with the team. Obviously, as the solitary non-Muslim in a team in which Islam holds such significance, he stands out (though as he stresses, it has never been an issue) but that's not it entirely. Perhaps it's just the legspinner in him, a breed that anyway thrives on individuality.
If Pakistan's batting has anything to do with it, he might not clock up any more overs in the game. Salman Butt never looked anything other than a man waiting to edge a ball away from his body and Imran Farhat slashed and wafted through his 33 as though he himself was fielding in the slips. Neither dismissal, worryingly for Pakistan, was a surprise and Shoaib Malik's fitness, suddenly, takes on greater significance for the rest of the summer. To top it off, the first right-handed batsman in the top three we have seen all summer in the Tests - Faisal Iqbal - we had the pleasure of seeing for all of two deliveries. As ever, that means the best right-handed batsman we saw last winter in Pakistan - and possibly the best Pakistanis have ever seen - has some work to do tomorrow.
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