The first NatWest Challenge match at Old Trafford went right down to the wire, but Pakistan just came out on top after quite a scare. Pakistan were cruising towards their target of 205, but the middle order capsized, as so often, under pressure from resolute bowling while chasing a total.
The most impressive part for Pakistan was the commitment and attitude on the field, thanks to all the charged-up youngsters in the team. Except for the odd lapse, the overall fielding was outstanding. A brilliant catch by Yasir Hameed and Mohammad Sami's direct hit were just two of the highlights. On top of all that, Rashid Latif managed his men astutely - the decision to bring on Mohammad Hafeez so early was one of many bold decisions.
Past Pakistan sides have looked lost if the opposition got off to a quick start as England did at Old Trafford, but there was none of that this time as the youngsters fought back in style. Umar Gul was particularly impressive, which made the decision to give Azhar Mahmood the new ball even harder to understand. In Shoaib Akhtar's absence Umar should have been the automatic choice as Sami's new-ball partner, as he can make good use of the prominent seam early on.
What was pleasing for Pakistan followers was the good show put up by the allrounders. Abdul Razzaq's axing from the original squad seems to have fired him up, and he bowled a tight spell, something that had been lacking recently. Mahmood did better in his second spell, cutting down the loose balls and sticking to the basics. It will be tough if one of them has to step down now to accommodate Akhtar, who is eligible again after his two-match ban.
The early-order batting - ironically the most inexperienced part of the line-up - was the most solid. Imran Nazir and Hafeez batted well, showing the right application at the start. Imran showed his usual flamboyance: he has not fully sorted out his footwork, but his good eye and timing were evident in all his strokes.
It was refreshing to watch a Pakistan opening pair post a fifty partnership at last. And then came Yasir Hameed, well organised and orthodox at the crease, although he got out to a poor stroke against Ashley Giles. Yousuf Youhana's disappointing run continued. He showed only a glimpse of a return to form before being run out. His running has always been poor, with a terrible habit of setting off without calling. His wicket is too valuable to be thrown away, and this is definitely an area for Javed Miandad, the coach, to work on.
Pakistan's batsmen have done well post-World Cup, but they now need to start converting promising beginnings into eighties, nineties and hundreds.