November 2005: Aloo, Aloo…

It had to happen at some point. All good things must come to an end – as Australia’s hold over the English evaporated in the Oval air in September, so England’s streak of six consecutive series wins came to its conclusion in the more sultry climes of Lahore. The spells cast by Danish Kaneria’s leg breaks and googlies and charged by Shoaib Akhtar’s commitment, fire and deceptive changes of pace proved impossible for the England batting to counter at either the Gaddafi Stadium or in the opening match in Multan.

Yet all magic needs its groundwork, all good potions bear credit to the painstaking preparation of their ingredients and all artisanship requires a stable foundation upon which to craft. Notwithstanding India’s clinical exposure of the ‘new look’ Sri Lankans and their subsequent tussles with South Africa – or the ultimately fruitless efforts of Dwayne Bravo, Denesh Ramdin and Brian Lara to repel the once more all-conquering Australians, now fired by Michael Hussey alongside a Matthew Hayden who is playing as if the Ashes summer never happened – the biggest efforts of the month came where the nights draw in early and the drinks cart resembles an extra from the Flintstones.

Each side provided an opening pair who half blossomed and half failed to impress, whilst the bowling attacks blew hot and cold in equal measure. The difference came between three and six, and in one position in particular – number five. Whilst England’s September hero, Kevin Pietersen, yielded little beyond a round Faisalabad hundred that was also tarred by his impetuous dismissal the ball after reaching his milestone, his Pakistani counterpart’s presence at the crease proved as immense as his formidable stature.

In five visits to the crease, none of which ended before fifty runs had flowed from his CA blade and two of which brought three figures, England dismissed Inzamam-ul-Haq four times. Two of these, one controversial (and incorrect) and one kamikaze, were run outs. The only times the tourists could genuinely prise him from the crease came in his hometown, Multan, when he guided Andrew Flintoff to slip whilst trying to shepherd the tail and was caught leg-before as he erred in expecting Matthew Hoggard’s second new ball to swing.

In between England’s four successes, Pakistan’s captain carved 431 runs at the not insubstantial average of 107.75. Pietersen, Collingwood, Flintoff, Vaughan and Bell linked varying levels of reasonable contributions with equally varying levels of failure – Bell and Collingwood belying their inexperience to show more adhesion to the cause than their more illustrious colleagues, but Inzamam was a constant. With support from Mohammad Yousuf, Pakistan’s record Test century-maker – a mark he both equalled and passed at Faisalabad with twin hundreds, Inzamam was the difference, the foundation, the groundwork.

It took a Steve Harmison bouncer to strike Inzamam on the left arm and prise him from the crease, retired hurt, as November drew to its close – at times, it had felt like this would be the only way to bring his vigils to a close. It was a captain’s effort fully rewarded with the Bank AlFalah Cup, the Player of the Series award – and now the Player of the Month.

Cricket Web Player of the Month
November 2005


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