Pak v Aus, 2nd MCC Spirit of Cricket Test, Headingley, 2nd day July 22, 2010

Déjà vu for inexperienced Pakistan

Ominously for Pakistan this Test is following the same trend as the Sydney match in the first week of the year

Ominously for Pakistan this Test is following the same trend as the Sydney match in the first week of the year. Australia have once again bounced back in this classic contest at Headingley, but Pakistan can claim equal ownership of this game thanks to the two Mohammads - Asif and Aamer - who continue to play with the batsmen like marionettes.

Sadly, their own run-makers have shown the spine of wafers. For the second week in a row Pakistan walked into the second day of a Test in a dominant position before letting the Australians kick their way through the door. The cold air persisted through the morning, but the overnight pair of Umar Akmal and Umar Amin should have gained confidence from the waywardness of the fast-bowling trio of Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Johnson and Doug Bollinger.

It should not have resulted in a bungee jump straight away, yet that is what the younger Akmal did. Umar flashed a thick outside edge that bounced a yard in front of Michael Hussey at gully. Then came a horrible shot as Umar went for a wild slog which landed in the hands of Simon Katich at mid-off on the final delivery of the first over of the morning. Terribly for Johnson, it was a no ball.

But Umar, who had hit Steve Smith for a huge six in the final over the previous evening, had not learnt from this reprieve or his mistake in the second innings at Lord's, where he had gone for a similar rash shot at the stroke of lunch. A couple of overs later Johnson got his man as Umar wafted lamely at a delivery that straightened on its way to Tim Paine.

It was not just inexperienced batsmen who lost their heads. Kamran Akmal poked at a delivery from Shane Watson that was shaping away. There was nothing shocking in that, but it was the penultimate delivery of the first over after lunch and could have been left alone. It did not help that Aamer offered no shot the very next ball and was trapped plumb.

Shoaib Malik, returning to Test cricket for the first time after the Australian tour, played some sumptuous drives but failed to assert himself. At one point he even took a single exposing new man Danish Kaneria to the strike. A desperate attempt to play an expansive shot brought his demise and the curtains down on any further Pakistan fightback.

The key question is do the Pakistan batsmen have the temperament to play according to the situation in a Test match for longer periods? A member of the team management admitted to me earlier on this tour that the young cricketers do not possess the patience. Mohammad Yousuf said something to the same effect a while ago. Days after his sudden and shocking retirement last week, Shahid Afridi has now asked certain players in the Pakistan squad, who do not have their hearts in Test cricket, to get their priorities correct.

Regardless of his abrupt exit, Afridi was brave enough to reveal his weakness. Waqar Younis and Salman Butt need to be more honest and blunt with their batsmen. There is no point in citing inexperience as a reason for the fall. Bad habits need to be uprooted before they grow.

Though Pakistan's lead seemed strong in the morning, it was never going to be enough against Australia, for whom the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel shines eternally. Waqar admitted later the absence of any good partnerships, barring the first two wickets, hurt Pakistan.

"We didn't really get enough runs," he said. "We didn't really get the partnership going apart from the top partnership and then the odd one in the middle. We didn't really get the partnerships of 70 or 80 runs. It's been lacking and it's just because we have got pretty young players in the middle order. If you look at numbers three, four and even five they're very new in this arena so I think we've got to give them a little bit of margin."

It would be more helpful to tell his batsmen how they lost the strong overnight advantage after a rousing start last evening. And how, and why, the situation after two days is now level. He did have a word of caution for his team. "The Australians, you know, they're very, very tough when it comes to these sorts of situations," he said. "We've got to make sure that we come [out] on top and try to make sure that we are tougher than them."

There is a lot Pakistan's young men can learn from the unbeaten Ricky Ponting, who has been harried and hurried up by the three fast men. Ponting might have crossed the 12,000-run mark in this game but he still remains nervous each time he starts his innings. Once he gets his eye in he never throws it away.

Despite the batting setbacks, Pakistan still have a good footing in this Test. The overhead conditions favour the fast bowlers and going by their form a compelling finish looms. But Australia already have detected the weakness in their opponent's batting and will not be shy to keep pressing that spot. "They are aggressive with the way they play," Watson, who got his second five-for in successive weeks, said. "They can't really live without scoring for too long."

There is no doubt Pakistan will aim for redemption for the Sydney defeat. They have a second chance, but if they fail again they will have nowhere to hide.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 24, 2010, 8:42 GMT

    This has become fashion to criticize Pakistan nowadays. I accept that they are unpredictable but don't forget their natural talent in bowling (specifically). They can turn the tables at any stage of the match. Have a look to the stats in the 3rd day of the match and Pakistan is in strong position now. Batting is going good too (though we lost 2 quick wickets but it happens). The biggest weakness I found in Aussies side is their weak attack bowling (Aussies must be missing McGrath and Warne). Don't forget Pakistan was NOT outclassed in 1st test. They fought back. I am seeing Pakistan rising day by day. Open the last 1 year record of Pak (T20, 1Days, Test) most of the matches were closed.

  • Amyn on July 23, 2010, 17:47 GMT

    Butt needs to sit down with Umar Akmal and tell how important it is for him to stay at the wicket till Pak finsih thsi off. otherwise Akmal will come in tomorrow morning and try to finish it 5 overs and get out in the process landing his team into trouble.

  • Dummy4 on July 23, 2010, 17:45 GMT

    Pakistani batting is showing signs of maturity.......Third day of 2nd test we have rarely seen any unnecessary strokes played by pakistan team....They should be proud of their resilience as they have been sidelined from international cricket for more than 3 years

  • Vipul on July 23, 2010, 17:43 GMT

    I don't see ANY way of an Australian escape. Chasing 43 even on a cloudy day should be easy, considering that Pakistan is only three down. I guess that should end a dubious streak of losses.

  • Dummy4 on July 23, 2010, 17:09 GMT

    15 years of history about to change..The wall has been broken! Nobody can stop Team PK now..Good Luck !

  • Daniel on July 23, 2010, 16:28 GMT

    No...No Deja Vu..Go home. Bye

  • Jawwad on July 23, 2010, 15:50 GMT

    Ohh ohh my !! Aameer was plumb ? I accept most probably it wont make a lot of difference on the result but still !! Aameer was not out by a mile and a half. The ball was pitching outside the offstump, it did shape in but hit him outside the offstump. Given, he wasn't offering a shot but the ball was still missing the stumps by miles. This is simply ridiculous.

  • Dummy4 on July 23, 2010, 15:06 GMT

    I don't think PAK real problem is batting ability, we have talent...but problem is attitude...and politics...., I think still Akmal brothers are doing politics, if we see the way they both got out, I can feel some fishy stuff...they were in hurry to go back....and i am expecting same stuff from both again....the only hope is Salman Butt, if he can stay then we may can win....

  • Dummy4 on July 23, 2010, 14:43 GMT

    Its dejavu , yes ! if pakistan doesn't do it this time , they deserve to sit out the tests for this season and spare us the " miserable fans " the agony of watching them crumble .

  • mohammad on July 23, 2010, 14:08 GMT

    Well, Ponting got chance true, but what about other ausis players. From 154 runs behind they did not crumble, now their lead is close to 150 runs. The super Pak bowling line up ( little over rated) had the ausis 5 for 165 or so, but now they are over 310 in the 2nd innings. The bowlers are taking on Amer and Asif and Gul. That is what Aus and Pak teams are about. One team can fight from loosing to wining position and the other can go down hill from winning to loosing situation. If Ausis can get a lead of 175 runs, it will be hard for the Pakis to win. That is what the history says. I hope to see a new history for the Pak team. Hope their batsmen have the fighting spirit.

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