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November 24, 2005
Pakistan might have narrowly failed to complete a long-awaited series win in Faisalabad, but for Inzamam-ul-Haq, the match was a personal triumph. Not only did he become the fifth Pakistani batsman to score a century in each innings of a Test, his second innings ton puts him top of the Pakistani list of century makers with 24 hundreds.
Inzamam began the day on 41 with the tail for company, but as Pakistan lost wickets at regular intervals, Inzamam accelerated the scoring, before declaring the innings as he brought up his century. He said after the match, "I am very happy that I played well and that my team did as well. It was a difficult time when I batted because we had lost our main batsmen but batting well under pressure is always a satisfying feeling."
Javed Miandad, who had a big contribution in the early part of Inzamam's career, was also acknowledged. "It's a very big thing for me to break that record. But I wouldn't like to say I have broken his record. I have learnt a lot from him, especially when I was younger. He has a big contribution to each of my 24 hundreds."
Although Pakistan couldn't quite close out the match, Inzamam said he was satisfied with the performance of his team. "We tried very hard today, we had a chance to win the Test on the final day but we just couldn't do it. But our bowlers bowled really well especially our fast bowlers who were brilliant."
One fast bowler - Shoaib Akhtar - came in for some special praise. "He has played really well throughout this series and is bowling superbly right now. He has worked very hard on his fitness and it shows here."
With England struggling immediately after lunch at 20 for 4, Pakistan were favourites to win the match and the series, but a solid display from the middle order, including Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen, and an unusually benign fifth-day pitch allowed England to save the match with four wickets still in hand. "At that stage we were very confident we could win the Test but their middle order and tail played really well. Also the pitch wasn't like a typical fifth-day pitch where you get some turn and uneven bounce, it was still good to bat on. Any batsman who got set had a good chance to play a long innings."
With 16 overs still to be bowled when bad light ended the match today, Pakistan's relatively slow progress in the afternoon session yesterday eventually told against them. But Inzamam was adamant that the match still had to be saved by Pakistan then. "We had to first save ourselves because I think a target of 220-230 with more overs might have been achievable for England. Our plan was to have a bigger lead and at 20-4 we were in a great position to win the Test."
The draw not only ends England's recent record of six successive series wins, it means Pakistan cannot lose the series. Given that they were widely considered underdogs before the series began that is an achievement in itself. Inzamam, however, asserted that they still want to win this series. "I'd be much happier if we won the series here. We still have a chance to win the series but yeah there is some satisfaction in knowing we can't lose the series."
Inzamam also admitted that there were nerves in the Pakistan camp before the match as Pakistan were leading the series, a position they are unfamiliar with in recent times. "There was some tension in us because we could have won the series here. I think in the first innings, when we dropped those catches, we missed a chance to win it then as well."
Both teams now move on to Lahore, where the third Test begins from November 29. Pakistan will be forced into one change, with Shahid Afridi banned for the match following his on-pitch antics with his spikes as opposed to his bat, but the squad for the final Test has not been decided yet. Reports suggest that Asim Kamal is likely to make his way back into the squad in the middle order.
Inzamam insisted that Pakistan will continue playing positively in an attempt to win the Test, but admitted that weather conditions, and particularly the light, are bound to play as much a factor there as they did here. "We want to play as we are playing now and keep that going in the next Test. The light factor is there definitely and we have a later start (10am PST). I'm not sure what the light conditions will be like there but they will play a factor probably."
And despite visibly limping through the latter part of his innings as well as while on the field, Inzamam said he hoped to be fit for the next Test. Based on his batting performance here and through this series, his presence in the side will once again be vital in Lahore.
With too great an emphasis on limited-overs cricket, MS Dhoni's side have a set of skills and a level of concentration that are not commensurate with the necessities of Tests