London: It's been often stated that the future is an extension of the past and that the present spans the two. The past has had both wonderful and disturbing memories for Pakistan cricket teams touring England. And, even though the last Test series in 1996 was saved the acrimonious interactions of the 1992 tour, unwarranted ugliness raised its head more then once during the ongoing series of Tests and ODI's. If Old Trafford and Edgbaston were the past and best forgotten, Palmer's wide ball signal nearly brought it up again. Mercifully, Pakistan won; otherwise one would have witnessed unwarranted sights that would have taken away the gloss of a really well contested match.
Pakistan won by two runs, statistically very narrow, appreciatively larger in terms of heart and mind. Here was a team defending a moderate and according to Pakistani and British experts, a poor total to defend on a batsmen friendly batting strip. And with Pakistan only having one genuine, established fast bowler, 242/8 was far removed from what Pakistan wanted, and much nearer winning shores for England struggling to record their first win in this Triangular contest.
Pakistan won, not because England collapsed under pressure, but because its 'future', the team of tomorrow, rose to the occasion and held their nerves. Imagine a centurion, the like of Trescothick, losing his nerve with fewer then a stroke to win a match for England. The Pakistan team has shown yet again that they have the poise and patience to extricate themselves from trying and testing conditions with a flair lacking from the armoury of the opponents.
Toss losing Pakistan went to bat minus two of the stars of yesterdays; Saeed Anwar, unavailable due extenuating circumstances, and Wasim Akram still nursing a sore shoulder. And showed it had what it takes to be classy winners. And what winners? With no contribution coming yet again from the bat of Inzamam-ul-Haq. The stars of tomorrow Yousuf Youhana and Younis Khan, batted Pakistan out of hopelessness and thereafter the spin and guile of Saqlain Mushtaq, Shahid Afridi complimented Waqar's opening efforts, to stall yet again, an England effort to reach the shore.
Yousuf Youhana already has the credentials to support his batting. Younis Khan though, is fast blossoming into a 'Mr Reliable'. And his innings of 41 from 56 balls an apt reminder that one can score against the most penetrative bowling without being flamboyant or rash. His innings did not contain any boundary. Youhana's elevation to No.3 spot, though two matches late, was an opportune decision. And he endorsed his class through a very well planned innings of concentration and selective stroke-play. 7th out for 81, Youhana partnered Younis Khan for 80 runs and added another 50 with Rashid Latif. Then, Pakistan did well to score 35 runs from the last 27 balls, thanks yet again to Azhar Mahmood, who may not be bowling to his promise and potential, yet bats convincingly to put runs on the board, Cardiff notwithstanding.
Yet another loss to Pakistan at Lord's on Tuesday has more or less made England the 'bridesmaid' for June 23, the scheduled final. And even if England prove an exception to the rule by upsetting favourites Australia, twice in the forthcoming matches, a very unlikely happening, they may still miss out due a poor run rate. This is England's 8th loss since that win over Pakistan at Karachi and fourth against Pakistan in succession.
Through this win, Pakistan has drawn a lot of confidence. This 'future' looking team did them proud through this achievement where one and all thought 242/8 was a poor total to defend. It certainly looked all the more poorer through that Tescothick 137 that nearly gave England the much sought yet elusive win. It augurs well for Pakistan and reflects a potentially greater significance, for it was achieved without the super stars. England's 8th defeat in a row was yet another blow to morale. For Pakistan, this win erases those unhappy moments of Lord's 1992 when they lost to England by 79 runs.
Umpiring has been consistently inconsistent and even though Saleem Elahi was unfortunate earlier on, KE Palmer nearly 'recreated' Old Trafford, 1992. Here's hoping conscience rules the hearts of the umpires in coming matches and they are also alert enough to spot no balls.
Pakistan plays Australia next at Chester-le-Street and certainly would feel comfortable if Australia triumphs over England at Old Trafford, Thursday.