Second Cornhill Test


David Norrie

Toss: England.

Wasim Akram drove Salisbury through the covers at 6.40 on Sunday evening to give Pakistan a one-match lead in the series and conclude an astonishing day of Test cricket. Seventeen wickets tumbled and the close-to-capacity crowd could be forgiven for thinking this was a one-day final. Pakistan saw near-certain victory evaporate into near-certain defeat before Wasim and Waqar Younis- as a batting partnership for once - defied England's depleted and tiring attack for the final nerve-racking hour. That last boundary ended England's brave fightback, and provoked some of the most emotional scenes ever seen at Lord's as the Pakistan touring party raced on to the playing surface in celebration.

Wasim's elegant drive also saved the Test and County Cricket Board from facing the wrath of a frustrated crowd for the second successive Test. Had Salisbury bowled a maiden, proceedings for the day would have been concluded. The battle would have resumed on Monday morning with England needing two wickets to tie the Test and Pakistan wanting one run to win. In fact, it would not have been the TCCB's fault: the Pakistanis had rejected the customary provision for an extra half-hour before the tour began. It was not a great Test match, but Sunday was a great Test day, and it would have been dreadful if this ding-dong battle had not been resolved there and then because of a technicality.

The influence of Pakistan's heroes, Wasim and Waqar- with ball and bat - was all the more remarkable because there were serious doubts over both a few weeks earlier. Wasim missed the First Test because of shin trouble, while Waqar used Edgbaston for little more than a trial run after the stress fracture which kept him out of the World Cup. Less than a fortnight later, they put Pakistan in command of this Test with 13 wickets, and then held their nerves for a famous victory. Wasim had proved his fitness by taking 16 wickets in the conclusive victories over Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire between the Tests. His return in place of Ata-Ur-Rehman was Pakistan's only change from Edgbaston. England's bowling had been much criticised for its lack of variety, but their only alternation to the 13-man squad was Malcolm for Ramprakash. Malcolm had been out of the side, after playing 17 consecutive Tests, since the Lord's Test a year before, and was selected after England team manager Micky Stewart spent two days watching him at Harrogate, where he failed to add to his season's tally of 12 first-class wickets. Stewart and Gooch were passed fit after minor worries, as was Botham who was troubled by a groin strain. England left out Munton, again, and Pringle, allowing Salisbury, England's first specialist leg-spinner for 21 years, to make his début a fortnight later than expected.

Gooch won the toss, and with Stewart put on 123 for the first wicket at almost a run a minute as Pakistan failed to utilise the new ball, the overcast conditions and poor light. The England captain passed W. R. Hammond's Test aggregate of 7,249 runs when he reached 53, and looked in no trouble until he edged Wasim onto his stumps. But England lost their way from the moment Hick lobbed an ambitious pull to mid-on. Smith became Wasim's 150th Test victim and Stewart was removed in the last over before tea, after which Waqar cleaned up with a devastating spell of four for 17 in 40 deliveries. Waqar showed no signs of his recent back problem as he claimed his eighth five-wicket haul in his 16th Test, but England contributed to their own downfall. Several were guilty of loose shots and only Russell offered any sensible resistance at the end.

Pakistan's first innings stretched beyond tea on Saturday, mainly because the second and third sessions on Friday were wiped out by rain. They faced only five overs from Botham, all on Saturday, after he aggravated his groin by slipping over on Thursday night. It did not prevent him catching Javed Miandad at first slip, to give Salisbury his first Test wicket, and following up with a brilliant diving catch to remove Moin Khan and equal M. C. Cowdrey's England record of 120 Test catches. But England's hero on Saturday was Malcolm. Pakistan were well set at 228 for three when he halted their charge by removing Asif Mujtaba, Inzamam-Ul-Haq and Salim Malik in 13 balls. England did well to restrict Pakistan to a lead of 38. They pulled in front in the 18 overs negotiated on Saturday night, though Gooch was a casualty. Night-watchman Salisbury proved a stubborn obstacle on Sunday morning for half an hour; but his fellow leg-spinner, Mushtaq Ahmed, instigated England's collapse, dismissing Hick, Smith and Lamb in 22 deliveries. Any hope of setting Pakistan a stiff target was destroyed by Wasim, who took the final three wickets in four deliveries. Stewart, alone, stood defiant. He became the sixth Englishman to carry his bat in a Test, and the first at Lord's. It was a responsible and mature innings, confirming his recent progress.

The day's events had already been dramatic, but the climactic act was about to unfold. Pakistan needed 138 for victory, with nine hours remaining. They were soon 18 for three, as Lewis found the edge of the bats of Ramiz Raja, Asif Mujtaba and Miandad, all for ducks, in a high-quality spell. And when Salisbury had Malik caught with his fifth delivery, England had the sniff of victory. Gooch had two problems, however, Botham, still troubled by his groin, had been hit on the toe, and Defreitas had strained his groin, too; neither could bowl. But Salisbury refused to be overawed by the occasion and, with the help of a foolish run-out and another neat catch by Hick at second slip off Malcolm, Pakistan were reduced to 95 for eight. But the injuries told against England. Gooch had no one to administer the coup de grâce; Lewis, who had bowled his best spell in Test cricket, was running on empty. What England's captain needed was an over from Wasim or Waqar. But they were batting for the other side and, slowly but surely, they took Pakistan to victory. Rarely can a Test crowd have been through so many emotions in a single day's play.

England's players were fined £330 each by referee Bob Cowper for their slow over-rate; it could have been £1,210, more than half their match fee, had he not allowed for interruptions and the long walk from the Lord's dressing-rooms to the pitch. During the match, Cornhill announced an extension to their sponsorship of English Test cricket, paying £3.2 million for the privilege in 1993 and 1994. But, like the lucky 26,000 spectators, Cornhill will never get better value for their money than they did on this Sunday at Lord's.

Man of the Match: Wasim Akram.

Attendance: 96,576; receipts £1,797,204.

Close of play: First day, Pakistan 31-0 ( Aamir Sohail 10*, Ramiz Raja 20*); Second day, Pakistan 123-1 ( Aamir Sohail 73*, Asif Mujtaba 22*); Third day, England 52-1 ( A. J. Stewart 21*, I. D. K. Salisbury 1*).

© John Wisden & Co