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February 22, 2009
A docile pitch at the National Stadium in Karachi helped turn Pakistan's first two days of Test cricket in 14 months into an ordeal. It hardly offered any assistance to their pace attack, and Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam said that the track, on which Sri Lanka amassed 644 for 7 declared, was not what the home team had expected.
"I am not very happy with the state of the wicket," Alam said even while admitting the team had performed poorly on the opening day. "I will be very honest with you that we [Pakistan] were not expecting such a wicket. We needed a wicket which had grass and some bounce because we rely on our fast bowlers. The curator was told that we needed such a wicket but unfortunately it was not made."
Alam declined to comment on whether the curator, former Test player Agha Zahid, should be sacked, but said the use of the centre square for domestic games would have hampered preparations. "I'm sure some discussion will be held on this and what should be done for the future. Wherever you go in the world they don't touch the centre wicket - it's especially reserved for Test matches. They play on the side wickets, but here the problem is that the sponsor wants to play on the centre wicket because they want to televise the [domestic] matches."
Pakistan leaked 406 runs on the first day, and Alam admitted the team had erred by not plugging the third-man region, an area where Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera scored easy runs. "After every day's play we discuss the performance and yesterday we analysed that we should not have given them free runs," he said. "We positioned a third man from the start of the second day and also a sweeper to make sure that they do not score quickly." Alam said the matter had been discussed with captain Younis Khan, whose positive approach did not pay off on the opening day.
With both Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis posing a threat to the batsmen during their short spells on Sunday, Pakistan face a tough challenge to match Sri Lanka's total. "Pressure is always there on a professional player," Alam said. "Our strategy is that a batsman who walks in should stay at the wicket and with right shot selection, big partnerships can be forged," he said. "I don't see anything unusual in the wicket."
Pakistan's lone specialist spinner, Danish Kaneria, was largely inconsistent, and conceded 170 runs off 46.2 overs for his three wickets. It was the 33rd time he had given over a 100 runs in an innings - this being his 94th innings. "I did talk to him and if you see his performance today, his line was much better," Alam said. "He was playing after a long time [it was Kaneria's first international game since December 2007].
"I was not very happy or satisfied with our bowling attack. We bowled either too full or too short. The wicket was a type on which we should have bowled a bit short of a length. Today the bowlers' line and length was very good and at one stage they had scored 19 runs in the first 15 overs. The idea was to frustrate them and not let them score quickly."
The worst of the bowlers, though, was debutant Sohail Khan, who was taken for 131 off 21 overs: an economy-rate of 6.23. Sohail was picked ahead of 20-year-old Mohammad Talha, who had impressed in recent domestic games. "Our consensus was that he had more experience than Talha and had been playing domestic cricket for quite sometime," Alam said. "He had taken a good number of wickets in domestic cricket at these very same venues. Unfortunately two catches were dropped off his bowling but it's a part of the game."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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