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Pakistan v England at Faisalabad - 2nd Test Report

Report by Neil Robinson 28/11/05

Two stylish centuries from captain Inzamam-ul-Haq ensured that Pakistan had the better of this drawn match in Faisalabad. England, who welcomed back their captain Michael Vaughan, were always playing a chasing game once the hosts won the toss and batted first again. But they still began the fifth day with an outside chance of snatching a win, only for a lacklustre performance with ball and bat to see them very nearly lose, stuttering to 20 for 4 in pursuit of an unlikely 285.

If anything the pitch here was even less lively than that at Multan, so the very last thing England wanted was to lose the toss and spend the first day chasing leather with little chance of reprieve. But, 1-0 up in the series, there was little incentive for Pakistan to do anything other than stack the deck against their opponents. Even some disciplined bowling from England's seamers could do nothing to prevent Shoaib Malik and Salman Butt from racking up another fifty partnership. Offered nothing by the conditions, England's bowlers put any thoughts of pace, swing, or hostility to the backs of their minds and concentrated on a steady line and length just outside off stump.

It is not a bad tactic against inexperienced opposition, and it earned its reward when Butt had a dart at Harmison and edged a catch behind. Both Malik and the exhuberant Younis Khan fell soon afterwards, the former to a brilliant diving catch by Flintoff, giving each of England's three pacemen just reward for a patient display, but the more tempered steel of Inzamam and Mohammad Yousuf held firm. Theirs was a largely restrained partnership, except when it came to their determination to hit Ashley Giles out of the attack. Giles has faced this kind of treatment before, and usually triumphed in the end, but now, increasingly troubled by a hip complaint which will see him return home for an operation at the end of this series, he was powerless to stop it. His inability to properly pivot and get his body through the delivery left his bowling unusually stiff and predictable. Time and again he found himself lofted over the infield with disconcerting ease, and with off-spinner Udal only marginally less expensive on this pitch of baked mud Vaughan was forced to rely on his pace attack more than he would have wished.

Eventually it was the part-time medium pace of Ian Bell which ended the stand in controversial circumstances. Mohammad Yousuf drove back to Bell in the air, who dived to take the catch one handed. TV replays suggested that Bell, trying to regain his balance, might have rested the ball on the ground. As controversies go, it was a minor one to begin with, and it was quickly forgotten by the dramatic cricket which followed it and the greater controversies of the next day.

Shahid Afridi's omission from the team at Multan caused more than a few raised eyebrows. His aggressive batting and bouncy leg-spin would have added a dangerous degree of flair to a team carrying one or two passengers. Perhaps seen as a loose cannon, his record is not at all bad, three centuries from nineteen Tests up to this one being a good return for a young all-rounder, and at his best he shows the kind of unbridled unbridled joy in the game which makes Pakistan one of the best teams to watch  when they trust their natural game.

He is certainly popular with the fans, the prolonged roar of approval from the near capacity crowd as he walked to the crease demonstrated that clearly enough. And soon it was easy to see why. He watched Bell's first ball sail harmlessly past off stump, then hoisted the next over mid-on for his first boundary. The next two balls also disappeared to various parts of the fence, and little was to change until he fell the next morning after a blistering 92, which included as many big shots as most Test batsmen cram into a lengthy career. At the other end, his captain mostly leaned on his bat and looked on admiringly, making sedate progress when he had the chance.

Not long after Afridi had steered Hoggard to Trescothick just short of his fourth Test hundred, Inzamam reached his own, drawing level with the great Javed Miandad in terms of centuries scored for Pakistan. But his dismissal for 109 was less of a cause for celebration, and the first controversial moment of a dramatic day. It began blandly enough, a full length ball from Harmison played back to the bowler on the bounce. Harmison, as England bowlers now routinely do, grabbed the ball and immediately hurled it furiously back at the stumps, regardless of whether Inzamam was in the way or not. If he was in the way, he quickly got out of it just before his stumps were shattered.

Cricketers are notorious for their ignorance of the more arcane laws of the game they earn their living from, so whatever blame attaches to them for this incident arises largely from the blatant disregard for the spirit of the game that this habit, which caused a nasty contretemps with Matthew Hayden last summer and might easily have caused a serious injury to a batsman before now, demonstrates. The fact that it caused Inzamam's dismissal, however, must be laid firmly at the door of the umpires. Such experienced, and usually reliable, officials as Darrell Hair and Simon Taufel ought to know that a batsman, if not going for a run and merely leaving his crease to avoid injury from an incoming throw, should not be given out. That was bad enough, but then came the third umpire's part. Viewed from behind the stumps, it was clear that not just part of Inzamam's right foot, but virtually all of it was well grounded within his crease when the wicket was broken. After a similar blunder at Multan, one has to wonder what the third umpires in Pakistan are up to. Was this a hamfisted attempt to make up for the botched decision over Salman Butt's run-out in the first Test which, it might be argued, cost England the match? Or, more likely, was this it plain incompetence?

If that weren't enough, more baffling incidents were to follow. Once England had begun their reply to Pakistan's satisfactory score of 462, they were shocked by a sudden explosion from the boundary. What turned out to be an exploding gas canister attached to the drinks trolley at first had all the players thinking that the threatened terrorist nightmare had finally burst upon them. Taking advantage of the distraction, the cool-headed Shahid Afridi stood on the pitch on a good length, dug his spikes into the surface and executed a neat pirouette as if inspired by watching Darren Gough on 'Strictly Come Dancing.' Unluckily for Afridi, while the attention of his fellow players might have been diverted, that of all of the TV cameras was not. The damage itself was quickly spotted by Marcus Trescothick, its perpetrator by the world and his wife. It was to cost him his place in the final Test of the series, and deservedly so.

While all this was going on England's batsmen were struggling again. Andrew Strauss, not for the first time, played on trying to cut a ball too close, an underprepared Vaughan lost his stumps to the impressive Naved. Trescothick and Bell began another rebuilding exercise that was going well until Trescothick got an edge to a good ball from Mohammad Sami two short of his fifty. But it was the partnership of 154 which followed between Bell and Pietersen which saved England's bacon. Both came into this series having struggled to string two strokes together in the warm-up games, but Bell in particular has visibly grown in stature suring these two matches, although his propensity for playing wild shots when the pressure is really on remains a worry.

Bell survived three dropped catches and a missed stumping, while Pietersen, bashing his way out of trouble, was twice put down by Danish Kaneria. Pakistan will have rued those missed chances, which, if held, might have led to England being shot out for an unpardonably low total. But they were to have another chance with the new ball as both batsmen approached their centuries. Pietersen brought his up with a hooked six off Shoaib Akhtar, but when he tried to repeat the shot off the very next ball, he found it arrived a bit quicker and the resulting top edge gave an easy catch to mid-on.

This was Pietersen at his most hubristic, thinking he could get away with anything, and forgetting that his dismissal would expose Flintoff, Jones and the tail to the new ball with Akhtar charging in and his team still 201 behind. So it proved. Flintoff could only make one before Akhtar splattered his stumps all over the ground. But Jones and Giles proved harder to shift, and while Bell fell eventually for 115 cutting at Afridi, a lively tenth wicket stand of 47 between Udal and Harmison got England up to just 16 short of Pakistan.

Pakistan were soon able to make that lead look a telling one, however, as Butt and Malik eased their way to another comfortable fifty partnership. England's policy of giving Flintoff the new ball instead of Harmison does not appear to be working, the big Lancastrian's new-ball spells have been his most ineffective of this tour. When the breakthroughs did come, there was a strong whiff of fortune about them. First Malik drove Flintoff loosely to Bell at cover, then, after another 50 had been added, Younis Khan was unlucky to be judged lbw to Hoggard when the ball looked to be drifting down leg side. Moments later Salman Butt received his second warning of the innings from Darrell Hair for running straight down the pitch. Clearly disconcerted, Butt was then struck on the pad by an innocuous ball from Udal, it looked to be drifting down the leg side again, but Taufel's finger was raised.

Any sense that England were gaining the upper hand was premature though as Inzamam and Yousuf added a calm 56 to the total, in no particular hurry, as if batting England out of the game were more important than setting up the declaration. The lead had reached 180 when Flintoff, nearing the end of a tiring spell, asked his captain for another over. Achieving rare inswing with the old ball Flintoff soon rearranged the timbers of Yousuf, then Afridi, first ball. Deprived of more dynamic hitting from Afridi, a good proportion of the crowd made straight for the exits.

A good outswinger from Harmison which found Kamran Akmal's edge sent England into the final day with some hope of forcing a win. Naved-ul-Hasan quickly went the same way next morning, but then came the most perplexing bit of captaincy from Vaughan. Probably encouraged by the swing his fast bowlers had achieved with the old ball, he delayed taking the new ball far too long, way beyond the point where the old one was swinging. Shoaib Akhtar stayed with his skipper to add a crucial 47, and after he fell it wasn't long before Inzamam eased to his second immaculate hundred of the match, and immediately declared, setting England an improbable 285 from 64 overs.

If Pakistan's thoughts going in to the final innings were more of having preserved their lead in the series, they soon turned to extending it. Charging in for his fastest spell of the series so far, Akhtar swung a rapid full-length ball past Trescothick's defensive prod to send his off-peg cartwheeling. Strauss suffered the same fate to Naved, the ball keeping a little low, then a loose cut from Bell made it three ducks in a row. When Vaughan was trapped in front by Naved, England were 20-4, and their meltdown in Multan looked like being followed by a foul up in Faisalabad.

Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen probably aren't the first two names to spring to mind when it comes to blocking out the overs for a draw, but they restrained themselves to the best of their ability, save for Flintoff launching Kaneria over midwicket for the 19th six of the match. So far when they have batted together for England, the expected fireworks have not been produced. Perhaps each feels that the presence of the other takes the pressure to score quickly off him. They batted in similar fashion as England pushed for a narrow win at Trent Bridge last summer. Now, as then, by the time Pietersen fell, to a spooned inside-edge off Naved, England were nearly there. Their progress was helped, initially, by Shoaib's sudden loss of discipline. He seemed to find the prospect of bowling bouncer after bouncer at England's big-hitters, especially Pietersen, irresistible, and too many deliveries sailed harmlessly overhead.

Although Flintoff too fell before the close, by then Jones and Giles had just an hour to bat through before the light closed in. And in the end, neither side was probably too dismayed with the result. Pakistan's sedate second innings progress showed an emphasis on safety rather than chancing the win. England would probably admit that their best chance of squaring the series will come if they can win the toss and bat first at Lahore.

Both sides will be forced to make changes. Pakistan will be without the combative Afridi, and also Younis Khan following the tragic death of his brother in Ukraine. England's Andrew Strauss has returned home to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. His replacement will probably be Paul Collingwood, with Vaughan moving up to open, rather than the exciting, but untried Alistair Cook. They are also likely to pick a fourth seamer, probably Anderson, instead of Udal, although with Giles looking increasingly immobile he might be the better candidate to make way.

Scorecard Summary

Pakistan 462 (Inzamam 109, Afridi 92, Yousuf 78) & 268-9 dec. (Inzamam 100*, Butt 50)

England 446 (Bell 115, Pietersen 100, Jones 55, Afridi 4-95) & 164-6 (Flintoff 56, Pietersen 42)

Match Drawn

Pakistan v England
The Ashes Cricket Series. Australia v England - Bodyline and Sir Don Bradman

 

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