Fan Following

First-person reports from the stands

England v Pakistan, third Test, The Oval, 4th day

Silky Yousuf, and other people's food

It was disappointing that a packed house didn't get a full day's play but with Pakistan being Pakistan, it was worth it nonetheless

David Reavill

Comments: 43 | Text size: A | A
Mohammad Yousuf's calm authority anchored Pakistan's chase, England v Pakistan, 3rd Test, The Oval, August 21, 2010
Mohammad Yousuf: Gorgeousness in cricket whites © Getty Images

The game
I am a regular at The Oval and it says a lot about the English summer that I can only recall two sunny days watching cricket in all these years (fortunately one of those times was last year for the Ashes decider). So I was not surprised to see leaden skies as I opened my curtain before setting out for day four of this intriguing Test match.

I could not foresee any other result than a Pakistan win as I took my seat alongside my wife at 11o'clock. (My wife bravely stood up from the substitutes bench as my usual cricket buddy got his dates messed up and is currently holidaying in France.)

Team supported
I am a lifetime Nottinghamshire, England and cricket fan, but a large part of me wanted Pakistan to ease to victory. Cricket desperately needs a competitive international scene and there is no long-term future in the same two or three teams beating all-comers. It must be the 1980s England supporters' psyche ingrained in me when a series victory was a novelty rather than the norm.

One thing I'd have changed
I'd have loved to see a full day's play basking in sunny weather. I belatedly realised I had tickets for day four (a rant about the crazy ECB scheduling is for another time) and was anxious about whether I would see any play considering Pakistan's form. I was pleasantly surprised that I was going to see a decisive outcome on the day, just a shame there was only a scattering of Pakistan fans there to witness it.

For anyone who has not been to a day's cricket before and are planning to go, I recommend the following essentials: sunglasses, binoculars, camera, and food. I had all these with me today and they made a good day out even better.

Key performer
Everyone knew that if England were to win, Graeme Swann was to put in a match-winning performance. Sure enough it was the sixth over when Swanny came on, and despite bowling manfully he just had too few runs to play with. It was great to see Salman Butt, an emerging gentleman of the game, get back into form with a decisive knock of 48.

Interplay I enjoyed most
The opportunity to see Swann bowling to Mohammad Yousuf, the best bowler versus the best batsman, was one to behold. The qualities of both players shone through as Swann varied his pace trying to outfox Yousuf, and in response Yousuf playing watchfully, oozing the class that has brought him over 7500 Test runs.

Filling the gaps
Filling the gaps at Test matches means only one thing, eating and drinking. A day at the cricket means grazing all day on the snacks brought along to keep your appetite well and truly satisfied. We had a stock of cold chicken, pork pies, crisps, exotic fruit mix and muffins. It is also a truism that whatever you take along to a day at the cricket, you will be jealous of the food and smells around you. Today this included a man with a cheese board and someone else with freshly bought Hot Dog lathered with fried onions.

Wow moment
The wow moment for me today was my first experience of the Decision Review System. It takes away the instant excitement of a wicket being taken and does not always seem to be used to eliminate the obvious howler but it can only be a good thing and it is vital to keep the paying fans involved in the process.

Player watch
Sometimes you can know when you are witnessing greatness. I have seen Tendulkar and Lara bat, Warne and McGrath bowl, and I can add Yousuf to this list. Whatever people may think of him, and he appears to be an interesting character to say the least, the man bats like a true genius. He looked assured and confident at the crease, today playing shots mere mortals can only dream of. While he was at the crease Pakistan were in no trouble of chasing down the target, and it was going to take a ball of the quality Jimmy Anderson bowled to remove him.

Shot of the day
Butt played a couple of sumptuous cover drives but that man Yousuf played a cut so late that he almost took it out of Prior's gloves off Swann. Simply wonderful batting.

Crowd meter
The stands were packed and the crowd deserved a full, action-filled day. Alas that was not to be and until 2.15pm there was a general air of resignation in the crowd. There was an increasing realisation that they had spent out an awful lot of money to see 30 overs of play. And then Pakistan did what only Pakistan can - buckle at the sight of the finishing line. Tension grew not only on the Pakistan balcony but among the supporters who had patiently waited, hoping for some action to cheer. Sure enough the crowd started cheering every dot ball and roaring the bowlers on. Each wicket was greeted with an increasing crescendo of noise. So much so that England appealed for a caught-behind when no one could have been sure if an edge had been taken.

Fancy-dress index
I have been put off attending in fancy dress since my friend was greeted with a barrage of abuse when dressed as Batman. He had "Fatman' sung at him all day. That said it is amusing to see men willing to make themselves feel uncomfortable for a day at the cricket and I found myself sandwiched between eight "Where's Wally" characters, each with a cardboard face cut-out of a Sky TV commentator, and a group of men with curly wigs and Mexican moustaches. If that didn't guarantee me being on television I don't know what will.

An honourable mention should go to the Test Match Special commentary team. It is hard to strike a balance between authoritative and knowledgeable and silly and banal, yet they managed to achieve this comfortably, broadcasting at its very best.

Tests v limited-overs
Only Test matches can provide the tension and drama the last half hour of this game provided. For one team to remain such hot favourites but appear so unsure of closing the game out is the backdrop to the magnificent game that is Test cricket. Long may it last.

What was heading for a disappointingly straightforward run-chase turned into a nervy, nail-biting stumble towards the final target. I always enjoy a day at a Test match but the ECB needs to resolve the marketing issues. Why the biggest crowd of the match were treated to three hours play due to chaotic scheduling is an injustice and demeaning to all those who made the trip to London despite it being obvious it was going to be a shortened day. The mood got brighter as England made a late challenge but it was not to be and a lot of youngsters who aren't as world weary and cynical as me may not want to come back for more.

Marks out of 10
10 of course. It's a Test match, the greatest gift that man has been given. To spend a day watching Test cricket is a day well spent!

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David Reavill is a 38-year-old cricket tragic, living and working in St Albans. Being a Nottinghamshire and England fan, he has experienced many highs and many lows but always comes back for more. David often wonders why his careers advisor did not suggest becoming a cricket journalist. Travelling the world, watching and writing about the game you love doesn't sound a bad way to earn a living!

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Comments: 43 
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Comments have now been closed for this article

Posted by David on (August 25, 2010, 12:14 GMT)

Thanks for your kind comments and good to see I managed to spark off a healthy debate, remember we are all friends here at Cricinfo!

Posted by Jeff on (August 25, 2010, 11:58 GMT)

For the record, I am (Mr) David's cricketing buddy who got his dates wrong and ended up in France when I should have been at the Oval (i'm also Batman/Fatman, but that's another story...) I obviously have myself to blame for missing out on watching Yousuf (and eating some of David's food) but I think the woeful ECB must take some responsibility too. As long as I have been watching cricket, the Oval test has always been the last of the summer (usually in late August/early September.) I naturally assumed this year would be the same. How wrong I was. Since when has the Lords test been after the Oval test? The ECB cannot keep messing around with schedules (the domestic schedule this season is even more of a joke) and expect the fans to stay happy. Rant over! Now, I can start looking forward to our day at the Oval next summerand hopefully the chance to watch Tendulkar bat one last time...

Posted by Ritwik on (August 25, 2010, 8:48 GMT)

@Shahiq my comment was intended to be a little dose of Pakspin's own medicine to him.

Posted by Shahiq on (August 24, 2010, 17:26 GMT)

@Dynamite kid ... Ahh, that post of yours clearly suggests that either you really are short of cricket knowledge or have a biased opinion against Yousuf ... Once again, am not comparing Yousuf with Tendulkar, just replying to a post ... In odis, you should also take into notice the different roles played by different batsmen ... Yousuf is the mainstay , the glue of batting for Pakistan where as Sachin wasnt until recently when he took this role ... Earlier, Dravid used to do this job, to stay on the wicket ... BTW, let's just have a look at S/R of the mianstay's of some teams -

Dravid- 71, Kallis- 72, Chanderepaul - 71, Colly - 76, Jayawardene - 77 n Ponting with a slightly better 80 ... Tom, Dick and Harry , uhh ??? All these are gems to their teams I guess ... Btw, your stats say for themselves that Yousuf does his job quite efficiently ... Rests my case ...

Posted by Ritwik on (August 23, 2010, 18:56 GMT)

As for the money hungry/record hungry Yousuf who would do anything to boost his average against Bangladesh and the pathetic West Indian team, and then run away the moment he comes up against Australia and South Africa, I just looked at his ODI record ...... he plays at a strike rate of 75. Didn't I say, for him his team can go to hell, his records come first. A strike rate of 75 in an era where every tom, dick and harry scores faster than that because they care for their team not for their selfish runs like Yousuf. I also checked Tendulkar's strike rate in ODIs, he plays at a strike rate of almost 87. That's called tearing apart bowling attacks and playing aggressively, unlike Yousuf whose first love is money and then his selfish runs scored for himself.

Posted by Nivek on (August 23, 2010, 17:41 GMT)

@Shahiq.. Sorry mate. I guess I missed that. @pakspin.. I can give you a list of innings by Tendulkar on fast pitches. He just happend to fill his boots in Bangladesh too, everyone does that, but his stats are very good in OZ/Eng/NZ etc. Mind you averages of 60 in these places and 50 in NZ and 60 in Sri Lanka and 48 in Windies (the original ones with Walsh and Ambrose he never played the weak Windies ) are very good. And I'd like to see Yousuf make as many good knocks as SRT even with his so calles "selfless" attitude. Cheers

Posted by cricket on (August 23, 2010, 16:58 GMT)

@the dynamite kid..the reason why many Indians rate Dravid higher then Sachin in tests is due to one fact: winning matches. Which, if you forgot, is the reason a nation plays cricket. Not to make selfish records for stats. Which is the reason why when Indians think back, they remember the wonderful innings played by Dravid, especially on bouncy pitches to save India the match..especially when the rest of the team had failed.that is talent..not averaging 70 odd vs Bengladesh on batsman paradises. Mohammed yousuf himself in an interview said that he can play for records and compete with anyone in that regards, but that hurts the country, you have to play according to the match situation, not just think about that ton. Sachin playing for stats is what has hurt India's record. While the country needs him to take some chances and increase the run rate, you see good old sachin playing for that century..not in the spirit of the game or patriotism. India's best (amongst world's best) Dravid

Posted by Shahiq on (August 23, 2010, 15:56 GMT)

@Dynamite kid .. Going by that, I dont think Lara or Sachin can be termed as great .. Lara averages 33 against India in India (34 overall), 37 against NZ in NZ.. SRT averages 38 against SA, 40 vs Pak in Pak, n 39 vs Africa in Africa .. They are very good at best, nothing more. Okay, they are a bit better than Yousuf, but just a tinge better ... Well, am not in this discussion of Yousuf vs Sachin/Lara (all are toooo good to watch) ... I know they ARE greats, but Yousuf is very good if not great ... Laxman is just a good batsmen, not very good ... And mind you, 2 of his precious years were robbed due to poor management by PCB, his stats would have been better then, and they are going to improve for the next few months ... And


Walsh, Ambrose, a few centuries in WI in 2000 (when the pitches used to be faster) ... May I know from where you are checking the stats ?

Posted by Nivek on (August 23, 2010, 12:58 GMT)

@Shahiq... I'm sorry but Yousef hasn't played Walsh and Ambrose in West Indies, he has just faced the current Windies bowlers if you look up his stats.

Posted by Ritwik on (August 23, 2010, 12:53 GMT)

@Shahiq It's not about not highlighting Yousuf's good performances, it's about highlighting his weak areas. Any X, Y and Z manages to have good performances against certain teams. Great players manage to have less weak areas. Any batsman with an average of below 30 against 3 major Test playing nations, with 2 among them being the top 2 attacks of his time can NEVER, EVER be termed 'great'. Add to that averages of below 35 in 4 major Test playing nations. He is at the most a good player, nothing more. Comparing him to greats like Tendulkar Lara is a joke of the highest order. Okay, maybe I took it a bit far. Maybe he's a tinge better than V.V.S. Laxman in test cricket, but not by much.

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