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England v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Headingley, 3rd day

Relying on the big three

Osman Samiuddin

August 6, 2006

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'It's unfortunate but you take it as part of the Inzamam experience - mostly a lot of class and occasionally a little comed' © Getty Images
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There's a couple of ways of looking at Inzamam-ul-Haq's dismissal just before tea. Either he was on a personal mission to balance out the less than effusive praise Monty Panesar received from Duncan Fletcher (his previous dismissal at Old Trafford strengthens this). Or it can be argued that as long as it is hurled out of a left-arm and has some tweak on it, Pakistani batsmen will succumb to a watermelon (again see Inzamam's previous dismissal).

You can also, of course, put it down to his uncanny, and unwanted, ability to find ways to get out, as Younis Khan laughingly pointed out afterwards (though he smartly denied the laughing). And that is forgetting the run-outs earlier in his career that have, a little unfairly, hounded him: he has only been run out six times in 185 innings. The last Test , where the ball looped off his foot to the fielder was one, but India will remember his obstructing the field at Peshawar earlier this year. English fans will remember the more controversial run out at Faisalabad late last year. There is also another hit-wicket dismissal, in Morocco, to South Africa's Justin Ontong, when he clobbered a six over midwicket only to trod on his stumps - much to Mark Boucher's amusement.

It's unfortunate but you take it as part of the Inzamam experience - mostly a lot of class and occasionally a little comedy. His dismissal was, though, part of a collapse which highlights the extent of their reliance on the big three of Inzamam, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan. On either side of them, on this tour especially, a different game altogether has been played. Where five of England's top six have made a hundred in the series, only one Pakistani fifty - Kamran Akmal at Lord's - has come from outside the middle three. As much as the lack of bite in their bowling, that failing has haunted them in this series.

Sadly, for Pakistani supporters, the collapse ultimately dimmed any of the more audacious hopes they may have harboured from Pakistan in this match. With Younis and Inzamam at the crease, Pakistan 68 behind and seven wickets in hand, a substantial lead and the prospect of putting pressure on England for the first time in the series was tangible. Disappointment though is a relative emotion. Yesterday, if you offered Pakistan any type of lead - even the slim one they eventually got - they would gladly have accepted it. In that context, Pakistan's resistance efforts today deserve considerable praise.



'only one Pakistani fifty - Kamran Akmal at Lord's - has come from outside the middle three' © Getty Images
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But it's surprising how quickly the progress of two years is forgotten in the wake of one poor result. There is no hiding from how awful Pakistan were at Old Trafford. But similarly there should be no escaping from their ability in that time to come back from such disasters. From some of the sentiments expressed though, you'd think Pakistan were a side worried about their Test status. Locally, reactions were typically emotional; the foreign coach and his equally foreign laptop have been targeted, as has Inzamam's captaincy and the lack of depth of Pakistan's pace attack (if anyone can name a side in recent memory that has plugged the absence of three first-choice strike bowlers with success, do send in an email - Pakistanis should know given the struggles they faced without Wasim and Waqar on occasion).

It didn't get too much better in England; their batsmen were accused of lacking courage and after day two here, one broadsheet writer concluded "Barring a minor disaster, England ought to wrap this Test up some time late tomorrow and go to The Oval in considerably better spirits than at the start of the summer." It's as if Bangalore, Jamaica, Multan, Karachi have all been whitewashed from collective memory.

The more rational assessment is this; if Pakistan can draw this Test - all possibilities remain open still - it isn't the end of the world. With Mohammad Asif set to return, accompanied possibly by Shoaib Akhtar, for the final Test, their chances of taking 20 wickets and a possible spoil of the series increase manifold. And ultimately, as England discovered themselves on their recent injury-ravaged tour to India, that won't be such a poor result.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

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Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.
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