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First-person reports from the stands
News : England encounter some timely defiance
Analysis : Inspiring Zulqarnain gives Pakistan belief
Features : Zulqarnain's long road to recognition
Matches: England v Pakistan at Birmingham
Series/Tournaments: Pakistan tour of England
Pakistan v England at Edgbaston. Having watched both Pakistan's victories against the Aussies in the Twenty20s here, I was anxiously waiting for a chance to watch a Test in Birmingham. Despite the unevenness of the first contest and first day's play here, the third day seemed intriguing. Despite the overpriced tickets, people are always excited when the circus rolls up and it was the same for Salman Butt's band of merry men.
Pakistan. Like many before me, I bear witness to the mental scars of Pakistan cricket. But like a hopeless romantic I am pulled in for one more roll of the dice. The attraction of a frenzied Pakistan in full flow is often nullified by their ability to squander chances of success, and their frequent forays into the woeful. But on their day there is no other.
Graeme Swann and Zulqarnain Haider. The latter's rearguard action was a pleasure to witness, particularly after he narrowly avoided the ignominy of a king pair on debut. His innings was a lesson to the batsmen above him in the order, as he showed guts and character. For England, the evolution of Swann from a feisty bits-and-pieces cricketer into a genuine match-winner is indeed a stunning turnaround. He spun the ball a lot and tore through the Pakistani top order in a manner his fast-bowling cohorts have become accustomed to. Undoubtedly, England hold an important trump card when they travel to Australia.
One thing I'd have changed
Haider scoring a century would have been a terrific way to end the day. Umar Akmal, perhaps utilising some common sense when deciding to pad up to Swann's sharp offbreaks? It would also have been nice to have more spectators in the ground, especially given the excellent weather throughout the day.
The Pakistan Supporters' Bag: two horns (one as back-up), a flag, face paint and a newspaper. The newspaper is for reading during the customary collapse. However, horns were banned, to my dismay.
Interplay I enjoyed
Stuart Broad and James Anderson probing away in the morning to a resolute Azhar Ali and Imran Farhat. Also, Ajmal and Haider's fightback.
Filling the gaps
I read the Observer while listening to Rick Ross' "Teflon Don". An excellent effort from the Miami MC, if you like strong beats and a smooth flow. I also spent time offering explanations about the whereabouts of Younis Khan to the gentlemen next to me.
Just before close of play, a streaker decided to enter the field. Everything happened in slow motion. He lost his clothes. The stewards noticed. They proceeded to wrestle him down but he squirmed out from underneath to rapturous applause and was off. Excellent athleticism and a sharp turn of pace on show.
The Pakistan players were seated behind my section and numerous fans, including my father, aimed questions at Waqar Younis and Salman Butt. Most questions centred around the top order's continual failings and they were met by sheepish looks and shoulder shrugs. We also sighted Mohammad Yousuf and Yasir Hameed, who changed outfits a few times. Also, somebody had the audacity to tell Kevin Pietersen to "go home" when he was fielding at third man. Hampshire perhaps?
Shot of the day
Azhar hit Broad for a delightful straight drive through mid-off in the second over of the day. The crisp contact with the ball echoed around the ground, mainly due to the unfinished building.
Paying £60 a ticket in a half-built ground? Really?
Good atmosphere at Edgbaston but the stands were about three-fifths full, with spectators spread evenly around the ground. And that's a generous estimate. The few attempts at Mexican waves were resounding failures and the usual Barmy Army chants rang around at random points. There were great ovations for Ajmal and Haider's efforts. A lot of the England fans were keen to see Pakistan do well, given the one-sided nature of the series so far. Pockets of Pakistan fans were scattered here and there, but the lack of horns and hooters really hampered their efforts at sound effects.
There was a Pink Panther in the crowd in the Eric Hollies Stand, providing the theme tune. Then a rotund middle-aged man with a silver goatee was accused of being in a Mike Gatting costume. Turned out it was Mike Gatting.
Kamran Akmal ran five laps of the outfield during the lunch break. Punishment for his failings in the last Test? May have been a typical masterstroke by Ijaz Butt. He then proceeded to put on a "catching clinic" with David Dwyer. Kamran with gloves on is always entertaining.
Tests or limited-overs?
Tests are the true examination of a cricketer, both physically and mentally. A crucial performance that goes a long way in determining the outcome is far more exhilarating in a Test than in any of the shorter versions.
It was a great day. The atmosphere was enjoyable and the weather excellent. As a Pakistan fan I was pleased with the first hour, but Swann's spell made me sink into my seat. It looked like it was all going to be over soon enough but Pakistan's lower order batting showed some real spine and attempted to make a contest of it. If the batsmen had put together a poor total in the first innings, say 170 or 180 as opposed to a pathetic one, there would be a serious game on our hands right now.
Marks out of 10
8. If Haider and Ajmal had remained at the crease at the close of play, the points would have been higher but the back-and-forth nature of the day made it worthwhile.
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