ICL: Indian Cricket League


Mohammad Asif, Gul run through England batting

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Pakistan finally showed their teeth in a bid to force a face-saving win with young pacers Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul giving them an ideal start in the fourth Test against England here at The Oval on Thursday.

The tourists managed to put the tears of Old Trafford and Headingley behind them to skittle out England for 173 through superb spells from Asif (4-56) and Gul (4-47).

Mohammad Hafeez (6) and Imran Farhat (12) opened the innings for Pakistan and took them to 25-0 in six overs at the time of filing this report. Asif returned from an injury-incurred hiatus to wreck England in a manner that made one wonder what would have been had the 23-year-old played in the whole series.

On a mostly gloomy day when rainy weather stopped play twice, the Pakistani attack spearheaded by the lanky Asif was in its element.

Asif, who missed the previous three Tests because of an elbow injury, removed any questions marks over his fitness with the sort of showing that the Pakistani attack has lacked in this contest. He was clinical and purposeful, always looking good enough to take wickets.

He removed three of England’s top batsmen - Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood within a span of 11 balls in the second session to help Pakistan wrestle an early initiative.

Gul, improving with each match, was also effective and after getting the scalps of Marcus Trecothick and Sajid Mehmood, he bowled Chris Read and Monty Panesar on consecutive deliveries to wrap up the hosts’ innings.

It was completely different to the run feast England had gotten used to in this series with Alastair Cook (40) being the top scorer.

But a more valuable knock came from Chris Read (33) who helped England avoid a worse scenario with some sensible batting in the final stages of the innings.

Inzamam’s decision to field first on a track that looked good for batting appeared a bit surprising but the Pakistan skipper wanted his bowlers to exploit the overcast conditions. It turned to be a good decision at least as far as the opening day’s action is concerned.

Asif, preferred over the under-performing Mohammad Sami, opened the proceedings for Pakistan but the players had to leave the field just after two deliveries were bowled because of a shower.

They returned after 35 minutes and openers Andrew Strauss and Trecothick began to lay the foundation stone of the England innings in the face of a penetrative attack by Asif and Gul.

Bowling to a good line, the duo made it difficult for the batsmen to score especially for Trecothick who is short on runs in a series that has seen most of the other English batsmen score prolifically.

Strauss seemed better off as he kept the scoreboard ticking, taking England to 27-0 before play was disrupted again with just eight overs bowled.

The players took an early lunch because of a threatening cloud cover.

The post-lunch session saw Pakistan on song, a rare sight in this series that is led 2-0 by England.

Gul, Pakistan’s highest wicket-taker in the series yet, was the first to strike as Trecothick (6) played one off the back foot only to see the ball flying to Mohammad Hafeez who took a great catch at gully. England were 36-1.

It was the beginning of a mini collapse that saw England losing six of their top batsmen for just 72 runs.

Strauss, who at 38 looked set for another healthy outing, became Asif’s first victim when he edged one outside the stumps and the otherwise erratic Kamran Akmal took a superb catch in front of Inzamam in the first slip.

A gem of a delivery followed this dismissal when Asif forced the in-form Pietersen to play a swinging one and Akmal made no mistake.

The Ashes hero went for a golden duck, leaving England at 3-54 and Asif on a hat-trick. Cook stopped him from achieving that rare feat by playing Asif with a straight bat but the bowler was now sniffing for more blood.

He got his third a few minutes later by trapping Collingwood (5) leg before.

Cook and Ian Bell, England’s stars of this series, tried to begin a rescue act but that was before the introduction of Danish Kaneria.

With his pace trio of Asif, Gul and Shahid Nazir tiring, Inzamam brought in the leg spinner and the change resulted in yet another wicket on the fourth ball of Kaneria’s first over when an inside edge brushed Bell’s pad and flew in the hands of Faisal Iqbal at silly mid off.

Shahid Nazir was rewarded for his hard work when Cook fell to him and England were reeling at 112-6.

Just when Pakistan looked set to land a killer blow, came Read’s act of defiance.

The gritty wicket-keeper, who came in as a replacement for Geraint Jones in the previous Test, marshaled the tail with a subtle display to assure that England would not suffer a complete collapse.

He added 46 with Sajid Mahmood - England’s best partnership - for the seventh wicket.

Sajid fell to Gul after scoring 15. Read added 15 more to the total with Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison before edging a Gul delivery on to his stumps.

Scoreboard

Pakistan won toss

England 1st innings

M E Trescothick c M Hafeez b Umar Gul 6

*A J Strauss c Kamran Akmal b Mohammad Asif 38

A N Cook lbw b Shahid Nazir 40

K P Pietersen c Kamran Akmal b Mohammad Asif 0

P D Collingwood lbw b Mohammad Asif 5

I R Bell c Faisal Iqbal b Danish Kaneria 9

†C M W Read b Umar Gul 33

S I Mahmood b Umar Gul 15

M J Hoggard c Kamran Akmal b Mohammad Asif 3

S J Harmison not out 8

M S Panesar b Umar Gul 0

Extras (b4, lb5, nb7) 16

Total (all out 53.2 overs) 173

Fall: 1-36; 2-54; 3-54; 4-64; 5-91; 6-112; 7-158; 8-163; 9-173; 10-173

Bowling: Mohammad Asif 19-6-56-4, Umar Gul 15.2-3-46 (3nb), Shahid Nazir 11-1-4-4 (3nb), Danish Kaneria 8-1-18-1 (1nb)

Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Farhat, Younis Khan, Inzamam-ul-Haq*, Mohammad Yousuf, Faisal Iqbal, †Kamran Akmal, Shahid Nazir, Umar Gul, Danish Kaneria, Mohammad Asif

Umpires: B R Doctrove (WI) and D B Hair (Aus). TV Umpire: PJ Hartley (Eng). Match referee: MJ Procter (SA)

Source:The News

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