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At Multan, November 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 2005. Pakistan won by 22 runs. Toss: Pakistan. Test debut: S. D. Udal.
It was a mark of the progress England had made that the team emitted an air of stunned disbelief when they failed to close the deal in yet another riveting Test match. After the Ashes, they appeared to have that basic commodity of modern sport, "mental toughness", by the bucketload. But it was the supposedly more flaky Pakistan side that came through under pressure. Marshalled and inspired by captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, they won by 22 runs early on the final afternoon.
The pivotal passage of play, however, came halfway through the morning session. Chasing 198, England were 64 for one, then lost five wickets in ten overs. That left them on 101 for six with, as it turned out, just too much to do. Some of the dismissals were simply profligate, wasting the hard work put in during the first four days to build a winning position after losing the toss. So often in the previous year, they had squeezed a satisfactory outcome out of the final day; this time, it proved beyond them.
Marcus Trescothick led England for the second time in a Test, again because Michael Vaughan had damaged his right knee. Fears were politely expressed in some quarters that Trescothick would be an inadequate deputy. These were to prove unfounded. He guided his team with tactical astuteness and led by example, with a superb 193 in their first innings dwarfing any other contribution. Not only that, but it later emerged that he was coping with a family crisis. His father-in-law had suffered a severe head injury falling from a ladder and was critically ill in a Bristol hospital; it was serious enough for Trescothick to consider going home, though eventually he decided to stay. Meanwhile, Vaughan's absence meant that Bell, initially dropped from the team, was reinstated. Shaun Udal of Hampshire, aged 36 years 239 days, became England's oldest debutant since John Childs in 1988.
A dusty and decaying city, Multan has the cricket stadium least affected by rain on the international circuit. Barely four years old, it was in pristine condition with a surprisingly lush outfield, which helped to make reverse swing less influential than England had expected.
This did not stop their pace attack picking up where they had left off against Australia. It was the 24th successive Test since Kingston in March 2004 featuring the triumvirate of Hoggard, Harmison and Flintoff; once more taking their lead from Flintoff, they combined superbly to dismiss Pakistan for 274 on a glorious batting surface. The adhesive young opener Salman Butt stood out with 74, before giving Udal his first Test wicket in unusual circumstances: a thick edge flew through Trescothick's hands at slip, pinged off his forehead and was well taken by the alert Jones, diving backwards. But with the last nine wickets falling for 113, there was no doubting which team had the swagger that comes from vanquishing the world champions.
Much of England's batting in the warm-up matches had been flimsy, and this was true again. Bell worked hard for 71, but elsewhere there was an ominous lack of application, with many unable to pick Danish Kaneria's googly.
Trescothick was immune. Although he survived a decent lbw shout from Kaneria on 48, he gave only one chance, on 181, when he swept to square leg. He faced 305 balls, hit 20 fours, and twice lofted Kaneria over long-off for six. He had batted for 13 minutes shy of eight hours when, just after lunch on the third day, he nicked the seamer Shabbir Ahmed to leave his team on 388 for seven. The eventual lead was 144. Even so, there was a sense that England could have scored more heavily: they had been 251 for two just before the second-day close. There were never any horrors in the pitch, and Pakistan's comparative lack of Test cricket - this was their first Test since June - showed itself in fielding lapses and 22 no-balls.
By contrast, the tightness of England's unit was revealed when they were back in the field, through an impressive discipline and positive body language even when they were struggling to make inroads. Pakistan's mainstays were Butt and the stately Inzamam, who despite rising temperatures never took the field without a sleeveless sweater. On the fourth day, the two of them calmly went about the task of trying to bat England out of the game. Butt showed great self-knowledge in his shot selection, working the ball into gaps and minimising risk against the persistent probing of Flintoff and Hoggard.
All was to change, however, with the second new ball. Its second delivery trapped Inzamam in front of his wicket, as Hoggard, able to gain conventional swing, got one to hold its line. There was panic in the home dressing-room as Flintoff added two more in quick succession. He had been given the new ball ahead of Harmison, who was bowling slightly less consistently than his peers, though he did chip in with the final two wickets. The last - a lob to square leg - was notable for being Pietersen's first Test catch, after his six spillages against Australia. Although Udal performed admirably, there was little in the pitch for finger-spinners; he and Giles picked up one each in the match.
Despite losing Trescothick late on the fourth day, England should have overhauled a target of 198 on a benign surface, and looked like doing so at 64 for one. Then three wickets fell in eight balls, starting with Bell, the first of several batsmen looking to be too aggressive against Kaneria's leg-spin. The tourists needed big innings from their big hitters, but Flintoff played a "six or out" swipe that went straight to deep midwicket, while Pietersen flailed at a very wide delivery and was caught behind. Jones rallied England, and got them within 32 of victory before he was bowled off bat and pad by Shoaib Akhtar - like Kaneria, much improved from the first innings. It was all over ten balls later.
Pakistan's only disappointment was that the umpires later reported the bowling actions of Shabbir and off-spinner Shoaib Malik. As for England, they were reminded that in Test cricket one bad hour is enough to undo four days' good work.
Man of the Match: Salman Butt. &