Pak v Aus, 2nd MCC Spirit of Cricket Test, Headingley, 4th day July 24, 2010

Pakistan's consistent inconsistency

This morning's grandstand finish was never really in doubt, even though Pakistan resumed their chase with just 40 runs required

Phew! This morning's grandstand finish was never really in doubt, even though Pakistan resumed their chase with just 40 runs required for victory. It wasn't so much their unpredictability that brought the game to the wire but their consistency. No team in world cricket is more likely to stumble on the last few steps as they climb up to the victory podium.

The heartbeat spiked as two quick wickets fell for the addition of just 10 runs. Australia's own media might question their national team's "world's best" status, but no side is more likely to keep battling until the last run is scored and the last wicket has fallen. Shoaib Malik was stunned when Marcus North cut short his stinging cover drive at short extra cover to pilfer the best catch of series, and probably this calendar year. Then Mike Hussey flew like Batman to his left to safely wrap a spectacular catch at gully and leave Kamran Akmal astonished.

A ball earlier, Pakistan had needed just one run to level the series. The rest of the team had been lined up behind the ropes, ready to dash onto the outfield and celebrate. Mohammad Asif, Pakistan's No. 11, was there, standing hands in pockets, not even padded. At the moment that his vice-captain returned shaking his head, Asif's jaw dropped and he ran back desperately to the dressing room to get ready to bat. So much for the tension.

Salman Butt, captaining Pakistan for the first time, did not hide the nerves. "It was a bit nerve-wrecking as a few wickets fell," he confessed - adding, with a shy smile, "Thank God we won.". Pakistan have had a history of nervous chases and in the last year itself they contrived three times to lose a match from a winning position. Butt was involved in those heart-breaking chases and was frank to admit that at one point today morning he feared even this Test was going to slip away. Asked if he felt Pakistan would blow this match, Butt replied: "Seeing the history, yes."

It was not a defeatist mindset, Butt pointed out. He explained his only message to his team before the chase began was to stay relaxed. "All I asked from the boys was to play their natural game. If there was a ball to be hit just go hit it because the only way to put pressure back on the opposition is to grab the opportunities. I think at the end, maybe, the guys were a bit nervous, as I was myself. But this is the way the game is and thankfully things worked our way."

Pakistan are in the midst of re-building after the ignominy of the Australian tour earlier this year in which they failed to clinch even a single win. It did not help matters when Shahid Afridi, originally appointed to lead Pakistan for the entire English summer, opted for voluntary retirement minutes after the Lord's defeat last week. So it is only admirable that Butt and his troops stayed tightly knit to work towards a united goal. "It does mean a lot and a new beginning for Pakistan, especially for this young side," Butt said.

Butt felt the players are now willing to contribute, are more open to talk to him and share their ideas and that has bolstered the team's confidence. "It is only the second time in history Australia were bundled out for such a small score," Butt said of the Australian collapse on the first day in Leeds. "It is very big achievement. Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul, Umar Amin, Danish Kaneria…everybody chipped in. The best thing of this Test match was every member was trying to help me, everybody had an idea and I could feel that from inside.

"It is [just one] win. We should not be so happy as if we have achieved everything," Butt pointed out, although that did not mean he was not confident. "From here we can build on. Pakistan cricket has got a new hope with the new guys who came in performing strongly. The management including myself will back them. I am certain if we give these guys more time we can become a world-beating side in Test matches."

It is only apt for Butt to use words of caution as he understands how easily youngsters can get complacent, something he cannot afford especially with a busy month coming up. In five days' time Pakistan begin the four-Test series against England. From the outset the main concern already is about the fitness of their three fast bowlers - especially the two Mohammads, Aamer and Asif, the twin architects of Australia's downfall. Butt himself is unaware of the future but is keeping his fingers crossed. "I am going to discover that myself. I can't predict anything," he said.

At the same time he had a strong message for his team. "I just hope they continue to learn and hopefully this win doesn't get in to their heads. We need to keep calm and work even harder," he said. Simultaneously he was asking the administrators to show patience with his young side. "We will make mistakes because they are pretty young, raw and we have to own them [stand by the youngsters] when they make mistakes. To build a side we have to own them when they are not doing well. It is important."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 27, 2010, 1:46 GMT

    I am totally agree with waqas aftab with his team.Don;t bring anyone in the team.PCB should take it professionally and act rightly.Why they are treating FAWAD ALAM badly.He is the only one can fit on all 3 formats of the game.Pls some body stand up and support him.He should have a permenent place in the team.Pakistan are wasting him for god sake utilise him.

  • Mike on July 26, 2010, 17:17 GMT

    Pakistan have never had a problem with talent, its the players attitude and adminstrator who have been the downfall and i dont see any reason why that wil not happen again. They seem to regroup for sometime and collapse badly in couple of games then again chop and crop. Change of captain, coach, players thus the struggle goes on. Aamer, Umar are great for cricket so hope that they are natured.

  • Hasan on July 26, 2010, 13:10 GMT

    the Era of YK and MY has ended,,, its new age of pakistani cricket...

    Yousaf does not deserve a place in pak team on disciplinary grounds...

    Muhammad Yousaf has retired from International cricket.. jusl like javed miandad

    and Miandad is bigger player than yousaf... so i recommend to bring back retired Miandad instead of Retired Yousaf.

  • Abbas on July 26, 2010, 11:37 GMT

    First of all, weldone Pakistan.This young team has done what team including big shots could not and would not have done.Please do not forget that ALL CAPITAL ALPHABET INCLUDING TWIN Y AND MISBAH were part of team when they conceded miserably against SL, KIWIS and OZZIES last years, even got white whashed again.These youngsters can not do any worst than that.Even Shoaib Malik is becoming a liability. Let this team taste the hard times and eventually they will emerge as polished gold.Keep is up Young Guns.

  • Asad on July 26, 2010, 7:39 GMT

    Why does everyone becomes a "Chief Selector" for Pakistan. Guys focus on other things... be prepared to face the English media in the upcoming series... did you notice on third day... cameras focusing on Asif... and not the Australia batsman when the aussie was saying something and Asif complaining to the Umpire????.... did you notice Mitchel Johnson covering his mouth in his follow-up while saying some 'good words'...

  • Iqbal on July 26, 2010, 3:45 GMT

    The match ended in the way it was expected to, but the confession of Salman is really worrisome in that he himself had some doubts about the outcome. Astonishing as it is, I would really like to see him transform into an energetic captain full of self-confidence. It might sound something of insignificance at this juncture, with the amazing victory already achieved, but deep down the Pakistani captain and team members need to rout out this mind-set about doubting themselves in terms of the target and pressures. The Aussies were expected have a go at the batsmen with everything that they had, and that's exactly what they were doing before going down. But the fact remains that Pakistan should never ever lose sight of their target and try to play their natural game without fear of any reversals whatsoever. This should really help them against England.

  • Saif on July 25, 2010, 17:13 GMT

    the game was certainly good advertisement for Test cricket, if ne1's got ne doubt abt the future abt the format.. i dont have ne doubts abt it.. bt the game wasnt good for poor me, supportin Pakistan team.. with all sorts of thngs hoverin in the brain... sleepless nites, refused to have brkfst.. jus sat at one place like a lunatic waitin for the match to end, in the favour of Pakistan. only a Pakistani can tell wat he/she might have gone thru in those few hrs b4 n afta start of th day..:) may be in the end, it was all worth it..!! Congrats Pakistan team, bt the real test has jus begun.. Dont stop here..!!

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2010, 15:59 GMT

    with Pakistan in test cricket it will always be exciting for both good and bad reasons lol i wish u guys all d luck as u give the English a good fight and even beat them so that they would beat Australia even worse in the ashes lol

  • A on July 25, 2010, 9:39 GMT

    @RezaThahir: Why do Pakistani supporters consistently hold Akhtar up as a shining beacon of light? Face it; he's too old and brittle to endure the rigors of Test cricket, and the pace attack seem to be doing just fine without him. And from what I understand, he's also got a personality problem, in that he thinks he's bigger than the team. Young players can do without that kind of destructive influence in their playing lives. Same goes for Younis Khan as well, getting all pouty and throwing games when he wasn't captain. (the last Test series in Australia proved that). The PCB should (but probably won't) stick with this current team for as long as they can, and build these young players into a challenging Test side, now they have proved that with the right conditions, they can topple a world class side like Australia. What the PCB will do, however, is start sacking players/captains when they start losing Test series'.

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2010, 9:34 GMT

    Strongly disagree with Reza. The 2 Ys are history and they should remain history, with them you bring in politics in the team as these 2 wont let Salman Butt succeed as a captain. My Test team: 1) Butt 2) Farhat 3) Azhar 4) Umar Akmal 5) Fawad Alam / Yasir Hameed 6) Umar Amin 7) Kamran 8) Amir 9) Umar Gul 10) Asif 11) Kaneria / Saeed Ajmal.

    Misbah, Faisal Iqbal and Hasan Raza have all had their fair amount of chances and have failed to peform consistently at this level.

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