ICL: Indian Cricket League

England may regret letting Pakistan off the hook at Lords


Pakistan owe it almost entirely to Mohammad Yousuf and skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq for having been able to come away from Lord’s with the series still level. Their poor fielding in the first innings, which had allowed England to build a massive first innings score, could well have cost them the match had not Yousuf and Inzamam steadied the ship which seemed headed for the rocks with the score on 68 for 4.

Yousuf’s innings was one of the finest seen at Lord’s, not only because of the double century but also considering the stage of the game at which it was played as also the fact that it was well nigh as flawless an exhibition of batting as one is ever likely to witness. Much will depend on him throughout this tour, although to depend exclusively on him would be to place an unfair burden on him.

He and Inzamam have shown that they were a clear cut above the rest and it is therefore not surprising that perhaps for the first time since Test ratings started to be compiled, Pakistan have two batsmen in the top five.

Pakistan’s effort was creditable in that they went into the Lord’s Test without any one of their top four pacers — Shoaib Akhtar, Rana Naved, Mohammad Asif and Shabbir Ahmad — and two of their top order batsmen, Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik. In their absence, neither Salman Butt not Imran Farhat could seize the opportunity given to them.

Another left hander, Taufeeq Umar, has joined the squad which means that all the three openers are left handers, a situation which has its limitations. However, it might be desirable to persevere with the two who played at Lord’s, at least for the next two matches, if only to give them the confidence of knowing that they are not on constant trial.

The return of Younis for the next Test, hopefully, should make a difference although it would be difficult to fault Faisal Iqbal for his performance at the number three slot at Lord’s. His dismissal in the first innings was to a brute of a ball and coming in on the fall of the first wicket to the first ball in the second innings, he did as well as could be expected of him. Indeed, I was disappointed to see him being sent in at number three; I would have thought that one of the more senior players, like Yousuf or Inzamam himself, should have held up their hand and accepted this responsibility instead of sending in an inexperienced youngster with the pressure of a huge score in front of him. That is what leadership from the front is all about.

On the subject of injuries, it is worrying to see so many members of a side being unfit so early in a tour. There were barely eight days of competitive cricket before the Lord’s Test which left Shoaib Malik, Younis Khan and Mohammad Asif all unfit. Malik and Younis were there at the end of the first three day match against Leicester which Pakistan won, they did not play in the next match, a four-dayer against England A at Canterbury, and yet they could not play in the Lords Test that followed the Canterbury game, begging the question just when and how did they get injured.

With all the technical staff and procedures adopted to ensure fitness, one sometime wonders whether some of these procedures end up by perpetuating the very injuries they seek to avoid. The latest news is that Razzaq has also joined the injured list; things could not be much worse if the series was taking place in Lebanon.

I was very impressed by the batting of young Kamran Akmal and feel he deserves a higher position in the lineup than number eight. I would even have been tempted to send him at number three at Lords in the absence of Younis Khan and even when Younis is back, I should think he deserves to go in at number six ahead of Razzaq to whom I feel he is miles superior technically.

The fielding and bowling were both disappointing and the five dropped catches proved the point — if indeed it needed to be proved - that a crash course in fielding, irrespective of who it is conducted by, is not the answer to Pakistan’s fielding problems. If all the catches, or even three of them, had been held it would have made a huge difference. Both Bell, dropped before he had scored, and Collingwood, dropped on 79, went on the score more than a hundred runs each after their respective let offs and if even just these two chances, both fairly simple ones, had been accepted, England may well have been bowled out for under 300 and we would have had a completely different Test match.

The bowling understandably was below par, but Sami was particularly disappointing. He gives the impression that he just runs up and hurls the ball without much thought going into his bowling and at this level, that is never going to be enough. Statistics do not reveal everything, but they do say a lot and after half a dozen years of Test cricket to have a strike rate of over 80 and an average close to 50 means that he has just not been able to deliver and that it may well be time to move on.

There is much talk in the air of a return by leg spinner Mushtaq Ahmad to the Test side. His performance for Sussex this season has been undoubtedly excellent but with a leg spinner already in the side along with a leg spinning all-rounder, it is difficult on a cricketing basis alone to see the grounds for his inclusion.

There is a big difference between county and Test cricket and without taking anything away from Mushtaq, it has to be said that the quality of most Test wickets is superior to county wickets if only because the former are prepared to last for five days. He is also a poor fielder and the addition of a poor fielder in a side which is already struggling in this department of the game would not make sense. Since his inclusion is unlikely to be at the expense of Kaneria, the man to miss out will be Afridi which means both the batting and fielding would suffer.

I also think Afridi brings in a factor of unpredictability which weighs heavy on the opposition. Of the many reasons for Strauss’s delayed declaration at Lord’s which eventually let Pakistan off the hook, one must have been the fear that Afridi could get going and knock up a quick 70 or 80, throwing all calculations out of the window. Mushtaq has been a great servant of Pakistan cricket but his time is perhaps over.

Pakistan have every reason to be pleased with the result at Lord’s. As time goes on, some of the injuries will heal and everybody will be more acclimatised to conditions in England. That can only mean that Pakistan will get better and England may well regret having let them off the hook at Lord’s.
Source:The News

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This entry was posted on Friday, July 21st, 2006 and is filed under General.

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