England v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Headingley, 4th day August 7, 2006

Kaneria flaps his wings at last



How very appealing: Danish Kaneria hasn't had the best of series, but turned it on today against England © Getty Images

Not much has gone Danish Kaneria's way this series. At times, it has looked easier to extract blood from stone than it has for him to get an appeal to go his way. The only way out then is to hit the stumps, which he did today, with a ball legspinners live for, a delivery that makes all the shredded fingers and rickety shoulder worthwhile.

Before the afternoon drinks break, Kaneria was laboured, ineffective, broody. His drink must have been spiked during it, for he came out a different man. His colleague at Essex, Alastair Cook, had so far in the series benefited from the familiarity, but he was bamboozled for an over before being sent back. Enter Kevin Pietersen.

He knows how to make an entrance too, and twice in his next over from Kaneria he swept him for boundaries. Words and macho glares were exchanged, Pietersen keen as ever to assert himself, Kaneria equally keen to hand it back. In his next over, Kaneria cut his pace significantly, in exchange for greater loop; Pietersen strutted out a cut through covers for four but the next ball was slower, loopier and dropped on a good length. It drew Pietersen forward to either drive or flick, spun in through a gap as wide as the Grand Canyon and bowled him; the googly as it was originally conceived. Cue a re-run of Shoaib Akhtar's famous but cryptic chicken-run celebration from the Faisalabad Test last year.

"It was a disguised googly for him. He played very well in first innings but this one landed on with the right spot and it just hit the stumps," Kaneria explained later. He also spoke of the running exchanges that marked the brief confrontation. "I wanted to show aggression to him as a spinner because he wants to kill the bowler's line and length, get runs on the board and make the team go faster."

And much to the relief of all who viewed it, he also sought to explain the chicken-run celebration, drawing inspiration clearly from Marty McFly and the popular 'Back to the Future' trilogy. "He walks in, opens his feathers. I called him chicken and he got angry. I said okay, chicken is the word to scare him out, and that worked out for me. It was just a joke because Pietersen likes to play strokes to the bowlers. When the spinner's bowling he just wants to slog him everywhere. It was a good wicket for me but what was said is between me and him."

Handbags aside, Kaneria was relieved to finally get some wickets and importantly, put in a biting spell. "It's always nice to get wickets and I should have more wickets but the luck has been up and down and things haven't gone my way. I'm still trying my best." Try he certainly has and he won't, you suspect, ever die wondering. He even confessed to being tired from appealing so much.

What his spell contributed to today was a potentially tantalizing final day and Kaneria argued that his side was happy to chase a target of 323. "It's a good score to chase. It's been a fascinating day and we came a long way to play positive cricket and show the world we are the better side. It's a slow wicket and Monty Panesar is a finger spinner but our batsmen are positive and looking forward to getting the runs."

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo