ICL: Indian Cricket League

Pakistan anticipate comeback as England target series triumph


If the third Test between England and Pakistan at Headingley is as unpredictable as the second, then bank on Pakistan winning the game in a canter.

Everyone expected a well-matched, batsman-dominated contest at Old Trafford in line with the opener at Lord’s but, against all expectation, England crushed their visitors by an innings and 120 runs. The jury is still split about exactly what happened in Manchester — were England magnificent or Pakistan merely pathetic? Probably, it was a bit of both.

Having opted to bat on a fast but true surface, Inzamam-ul-Haq’s men lost the game on the opening day with one of those incomprehensible, erratic performances that so infuriate their supporters. No side should have been dismissed for 119 on such a track.

England, of course, delighted in the feats of rejuvenated strike bowler Steve Harmison and left-arm spinner Monty Panesar — they shared 19 of the 20 wickets to fall, with the other a run-out.

Pakistan, meanwhile, have kept their thoughts to themselves, sidestepping their final press conference after being beaten within three days. They have concerns in all departments, however, as they bid to keep the four-match series alive.

Not even the wondrous trilogy of Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan and Inzamam-ul-Haq could cope with Harmison’s pace or Panesar’s guile at Old Trafford, while the younger batsmen looked all at sea.

Pakistan bowlers have been just as disappointing. Both teams have been deprived of front-line men but Pakistan have struggled more than their hosts to plug the gaps. Their bowling averages tell the story, with all rounder Abdul Razzaq at the top after taking five wickets at 40.60 runs apiece compared to Harmison’s 15 at 14.20 each.

Leg spinner Danish Kaneria has not had the expected impact while strike bowler Mohammad Sami has been anonymous (three wickets at 77 each). Umar Gul, the other man sharing the new ball, has looked promising but without delivering. At least one of these will need a return to form to help save the series.

England, in contrast, seeking their first series win since last year’s Ashes, have much to cheer about, thanks in large measure to their younger players. There have been six English centuries in two games and four of those have gone to the left-handed Alastair Cook, aged 21, and the right-handed Ian Bell who, like the highly exciting Panesar, is aged 24.

Bell averages 234 for the series, Paul Collingwood ñ older but equally inexperienced at Test level — 79 and Cook 78.66.

One thing seems certain; there should be a result at the Leeds venue. The last seven Tests there have ended in victory for one side or another. The last draw — between England and Pakistan — came in 1996 where rain played a notable part. Another English victory will guarantee a first home series success over Pakistan since 1982.

Pakistan will be without opener Imran Farhat (broken finger) while coach Bob Woolmer seems certain to reconsider replacing second leg-spinner Shahid Afridi with a quick bowler. England have replaced Geraint Jones behind the stumps with Chris Read. Read has long been regarded as the better keeper but weaker batsman. Jones, though, has failed to reach 20 in his last 10 innings. Sajid Mahmood will be challenged for his place by fellow seamer Jon Lewis.

Squads: England - Andrew Strauss (captain), Marcus Trescothick, Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell, Chris Read, Sajid Mahmood, Jon Lewis, Matthew Hoggard, Steve Harmison and Monty Panesar; Pakistan - Inzamam-ul-Haq (captain), Kamran Akmal, Salman Butt, Faisal Iqbal, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Sami, Umar Gul, Danish Kaneria, Iftikhar Anjum, Samiullah Khan, Shahid Nazir and Taufeeq Umar.

Source:The News

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