Pakistan v West Indies, 1st Test, Lahore, 2nd day November 12, 2006

The Mohammed who could have been king



Dave Mohammed: carrying on the legacy of another Trinidadian, Ellis Achong © AFP
For a start, you can't help but notice the name Dave Mohammed, exotically mixing as it does two faiths. There is also the slight build and a heavy gold chain around the neck of which rapper 50 Cent would be proud. There's his combative batting as well - southpaw, unorthodox and entertaining - as an innings of 35 revealed yesterday. It's his primary role which is the clincher, however, for he is one of very few to have taken it up in cricket, especially at international level.

Chinaman bowling - in effect left-arm legspin, or a left-arm offbreak to right-handed batsmen - would be a lost art if ever it was found in the first place. Only a handful have practiced it, even less successfully so. The style is thought to have originated from one Ellis Achong, a Trinidadian like Mohammed, but of Chinese descent.

Achong was said to have been an orthodox left-arm spinner, the first cricketer of Chinese extraction to play Tests. He only played six in all, but he occasionally bowled a wrist-spinner with some success, giving rise to the term Chinaman. Supposedly, the first time the delivery was seen was when Achong dismissed Patsy Hendren of the MCC at Port-of-Spain in 1930.

Anyway legspin is a contrary kind of style but doing it left handed makes it more so. When bowled well, as it was by Mohammed over 12 overs today, it makes for compulsive viewing. His introduction to Pakistan was surprisingly late, after 42 overs in fact, but almost immediately he stirred the day. Off a short run and hurried action, he bowled a couple of flattish, fastish deliveries first, before looping one up to Mohammad Hafeez, thus allowing more break. He duly beat the bat.

In his next two overs, he both troubled and contained Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq, and achieved precisely what Brian Lara had asked for yesterday. It also raised the question of why he didn't come on earlier. Never mind, for gold was struck in his third over as Inzamam misread both line and loop to be bowled by a ball delivered from well behind the popping crease.

After lunch, Yousuf was beaten by Mohammed's googly - spinning across him - twice. The first time, replays suggested a successful stumping. Unfortunately for Mohammed, Asoka de Silva didn't refer the appeal and this gave the day its pivotal moment. Two of the biggest Pakistan wickets in quick succession and Mohammed, not Mohammad, would have been the hero. Still, along with Corey Collymore, he reined in Pakistan, a period after lunch of nine overs in which only 18 runs came. And to think chinaman bowlers are considered luxuries.

Unfortunately for Mohammed, Asoka de Silva didn't refer the appeal and this gave the day its pivotal moment. Two of the biggest Pakistan wickets in quick succession and Mohammed, not Mohammad, would have been the hero

Pakistan, for some reason, historically struggle with left-arm orthodox spin and their experiences against the unorthodox kind haven't always been pleasant either. Paul Adams, one of the breed's most successful, once undid them on this ground, in 2003, with a seven-wicket haul. And the other modern high-profile exponent - Brad Hogg - has also troubled them, his three wickets overlooked by Andrew Symond's resurrection innings in the opening encounter of the 2003 World Cup.

But only 12 Mohammed overs all day meant Pakistan were never fully examined. Like him, the rest of the attack bowled well, but without fortune. Corey Collymore, in particular, looked for all the world as if he would replicate Shahid Nazir's performance from yesterday morning. Like Nazir, he also conceded 27 runs from a nine-over spell first up and he probably beat both edges of the bat as many times. The vital last column, though, showed three for Nazir and none for Collymore.

What little fortune came their way, they instead handed to Yousuf. He was dropped twice, both times off Jerome Taylor, though the second chance fell to the bowler himself. A shame, as he admitted later, for Taylor bowled with the heart and energy of one who hasn't yet come across too many pitches offering such little support. "We were somewhat unlucky today. I am a bit disappointed with the catches we dropped but hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

"There is absolutely no help in the pitch for the faster bowlers especially after the new ball gets old. You just have to bowl straight," he said with a smile. "I think the match is still open as we are only two days into it." Better days await the man.

And who knows, better days may also await his side in this Test for if the pitch deteriorates as Lara expects it to over the next few days, then we may also see a little more of Dave Mohammed.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

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