Greg Smith and Wayne White defy Pakistan
Leicestershire 277 for 6 (Smith 87, White 65*) v Pakistanis
Despite facing a second-string Leicestershire side Pakistan failed to impress at Grace Road with their bowlers going through the motions even though the first Test against Australia starts next week. The hosts raised a modest 277 for 6 courtesy a vigilant 87 from Greg Smith and Wayne White after the match had started in sluggish style.
Smith broke the tedium of the morning with his confident footwork and strokeplay in the second session and White, the allrounder, took over from Smith later to remain unbeaten on a positive half century which included ten boundaries and a huge six over the cow corner that bounced into Milligan Road.
Salman Butt led a new-look Pakistan team to the one that had inflicted successive defeats on Australia in the Twenty20 series at Edgbaston earlier this week. Most of the senior players, including captain Shahid Afridi, the Akmal brothers - Kamran and Umar - and the fast bowling pair of Umar Gul and Mohammad Aamer were rested. In came a throng of newcomers, almost all of them opening batsmen.
Pakistan have had a long history of top-order inconsistency since Saeed Anwar retired, and considering it is a long summer spanning six Tests, the selectors decided to pick a host of batsmen who could open such as Imran Farhat, Yasir Hamid, Azhar Ali and Umar Amin. Leading the bowling attack was Mohammad Asif along with Tanvir Ahmed in addition to the left-arm pace of Wahab Riaz. Zulqarnain Haider, who had been included in the large squad owing to the long summer spanning six Tests over seven weeks, was given the gloves instead of Kamran Akmal.
With his ability to seam the ball both ways Pakistan were reliant on Asif for early breakthroughs. He did start with some control, beating the edge frequently, but as the day stretched on Asif cut a forlorn figure and was even taken off by Butt after a two-over spell with the second new ball after e failed to control the swing and shoved a wide into the hands of the first slip.
He bowled in short bursts with the 17 overs split into four spells but ended wicketless. Still Waqar Younis, Pakistan's coach, dismissed fears about Asif's form . "It was a slow pitch. You can't really judge someone on such a surface," he said. He called Asif a "premier" bowler and a definite starter for the first Test against Australia.
The other two quick bowlers, Riaz and Ahmed, hit the deck harder at greater pace but apart from inducing a few thick edges that rushed into gaps they couldn't gain the upper hand. Instead it was the hosts who threw away the advantage with two silly run-outs and a couple of loose strokes. After Will Jones edged to Imran Farhat at first slip, Matthew Boyce erred in deciding to take single having tapped a bouncer from Riaz on the leg side and was stranded mid-pitch as Shoaib Malik finished the run out. Otherwise it was a laborious first session with the bowlers still trying to find their feet and the batsmen reluctant to move their own.
Smith, who took 27 balls to open his account, returned post lunch playing with more vigour, hitting seven boundaries in the seven overs in the first hour after the break. His footwork was precise and he moved quickly behind the line to take advantage of any loose deliveries. Runs came on both sides but the delicate clips off Ahmed and Riaz stood out for the Smith. Unfortunately his momentum was stalled when Jacques du Toit played into the hands of Farhat at mid-on as he charged Saeed Ajmal.
It was another misunderstanding that brought Pakistan their next breakthrough when Josh Cobb ran halfway down the pitch for a second after Ajmal had failed to pick the ball cleanly on the first attempt at midwicket. Smith didn't want the extra run, but Cobb was already committed and 10 minutes before tea, Steve Adshead played a loose drive to Butt at mid-off against Ahmed.
In the company of White, Smith arrested any further damage by rotating strike. It only frustrated the Pakistanis further, and some of the fielders were sitting on the haunches stretching after a long day. A few of the new incumbents had arrived straight into the match after a long flight from Pakistan.
Ahmed, who landed the previous evening, suffered from exhaustion and had to leave the ground briefly midway into an over during the last hour. It proved lucky for Pakistan as Smith played a premeditated pull, mistimed the shot and offered a simple catch to Ajmal at square leg. It was his career-best for Leicestershire and meant that Pakistan had been given a decent work out.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo