Pakistan fight back in 1st test

There’s only so much a captain can do. Marcus Trescothick must have hoped that his innings of 193 would allow England to build such a substantial lead that defeat would be impossible. However, a much-improved performance from Pakistan’s bowlers meant that none of England’s other batsmen were able to prosper, and their total of 418 was significantly less than anticipated. In reply, the hosts reached 125 for 2 by the close, only 19 runs in arrears. England’s failure to extend their innings into the final session is now looking critical. Instead of being able to use the new ball to exploit the relatively helpful conditions late in the day and first thing in the morning, their quick bowlers struggled to impose themselves during the afternoon, and will be using a very old ball tomorrow. Despite Flintoff’s potentially crucial removal of Younis shortly before the close, Pakistan now look able to set a sizeable fifth day target. With Kaneria already finding turn, that is not an attractive proposition, and Inzamam may well be the more relaxed of the two captains tonight.

The early exchanges were dominated by Pakistan. Hoggard saw off the early morning mist but not much beyond it, fending a delivery from Shoaib Akhtar to the keeper with only a single to his name. Kevin Pietersen hasn’t looked good in either of the warm up games, and his poor run continued today. With only 5 to his name, he was taken at short leg by Butt after failing to read Kaneria’s wrong’un. That wicket reduced England to 271 for 5 – an alarming collapse after reaching 250 for 2 yesterday – and for a while it seemed their lead might be kept under 50. Instead, Flintoff batted sensibly and England were able to build steadily. For much of the morning, they were untroubled. Trescothick continued to bat fluently, and, shortly before the break, passed Ricky Ponting has the highest scorer in test cricket this year. Apart from a narrow escape on 150, surviving a confident shout for leg before, he was looking immensely secure. Flintoff was mostly a model of restraint, but his occasionally powerful flourishes allowed him to score at a healthy rate. After two hours of the morning session, the pair had added 93 and England were looking good at 350 for 5 when they had a sudden attack of the wobbles. Having reached 180, Trescothick was badly missed by the substitute fielder Rana. From no-where, the running between the wickets deteriorated: Flintoff would have been run out by a mile had Inzamam managed a direct hit, and Trescothick just regained his ground when his partner declined a quick single. Then, with lunch only 20 minutes away, Flintoff gave his wicket a way with a quite horrendous shot.

After his heroics with the ball, it would be harsh to be too critical of the all-rounder’s contribution to England’s cause, but today’s dismissal was a shocker: a throwback to the bad old days when promising innings were regularly ended by ill-judged swipes that only provided catching practice. Today’s effort was there with the worst of them. Having reached 45, he completely mis-hit his attempt to dispatch a loosener from Shoaib Akhtar, only managing to spoon an easy catch to Malik at deep square leg. Apart from unnecessarily ending his own innings, his soft dismissal exposed England’s lower order to the new ball. Jones and Trescothick saw out the remaining overs before lunch, but England didn’t last long in the afternoon session. Trescothick’s magnificent innings ended when he unsuccessfully tried to leave a decent ball from Shabbir, but only managed an edge to the keeper. Jones played attractively to reach 22, including successive sumptuous boundaries during one over from Akhtar. However, he once again failed to produce a truly significant innings, bowled flat-footed by Shabbir when he probably would have been better getting forward. Udal’s debut test innings didn’t trouble the scorers, caught plumb in front by Akhtar and Giles’ merry bash ended on 16 when another attempted heave at Shabbir only found its way to Hasan Raza.

England’s lead of 144 was less than they would have hoped, but it was still more than handy, and early breakthroughs with the new ball would have put them on course for an easy win. Instead, Pakistan’s young guns came out blazing. Hoggard and Flintoff were treated with something close to contempt, as Butt and Malik took the score to 31 in 5 overs of relative mayhem. The introduction of Harmison briefly held up proceedings after his second ball had Malik well taken by Trescothick. Time to consolidate? Not a bit of it. Younis imperiously took 10 from Harmison’s next over and repeated the feat soon afterwards. With their run-rate approaching five an over, Pakistan looked set to wipe out the deficit well before the close. Despite their advantage, England were happy to take tea and attempt to regroup. The final session did indeed see a more sedate approach from the batsmen, as Giles and Udal managed to exert a measure of control. However, neither batsman looked unduly troubled, and they looked likely to take their side close to parity by the close. Instead, Flintoff once again dragged the game back into his side’s favour, having Younis brilliantly caught by Captain Fantastic, diving in the gully, for a well-made 48.

Much will now depend on Butt, who has now reached his second 50 of the match, Inzamam & Youhana. Early successes tomorrow will put England back in the ascendancy. However, if the hosts are still batting come teatime, they will fancy their chances of completing an impressive win. The only certainty seems to be that, yet again, England have found themselves in a tightly contested match that will probably go to the wire.

Pakistan 274
Butt 74, Inzamam 53, Flintoff 4 for 68, Harmison 3 for 37

England 418
Trescothick 193, Bell 71, Shabbir Ahmed 4 for 54, Shoaib Akhtar 3 for 99

Pakistan 125 for 2
Butt 53*, Younis Khan 48

Leave a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they have been approved

More articles by David Lewis