2 Excellent articles on Paks performance yesterday from The Telegraph
Excellent article with a little food for thought at the end.... !
Prolific Yousuf dominant
By Scyld Berry
England (528-9 dec) lead Pakistan (409-7) by 119 runs
It was the day when a bearded batsman dominated at Lord's as none else has done since W G Grace. A day of unbroken sunshine and, for half of it, an unbroken partnership too. A day of heat and sun-hats. A day for batting on a pitch that was flawless when England bowled on it, but maybe not when Pakistan's wrist-spinner, Danish Kaneria, sets to work today.
Skittled: Inzamam-ul-Haq is bowled by Liam Plunkett
It was a dress rehearsal, in other words, for England ahead of the winter series in Australia. It could have been Adelaide, given the bright light and batting conditions, except that the nearest that Lord's could come to a cathedral was the pavilion, and a kind breeze blew in place of the hot breath which puffs out of the Red Centre.
It was a test which England neither failed nor passed with honours. About six or seven out of 10 they merited for sticking to their task without inspiration. Steve Harmison was the pick as he struck some sparks from the pitch, when he was not falling away and spearing the ball down leg-side. Overall, as ever in an England bowling performance on a flat deck, whether in a Test or international, there was a general shortage of pace-variation and cutters.
Michael Vaughan would have clapped his hands at mid-off and brought a touch more urgency. He would have set a more sapient field for his spinner that did not allow singles for pushes to deep mid-on and mid-off. Vaughan might have posted a third man more often, instead of a very straight mid-off, where Mohammad Yousuf rarely hits a pace bowler. But only in one Test match, and that in Bangladesh, did Vaughan have to make do with four bowlers.
Andrew Flintoff bowled some fast and hostile deliveries at Lord's yesterday morning, but only in the lee of the grandstand. It will be a different game if he comes through Lancashire's championship match starting against Kent on Tuesday and plays the second Test. A captain of only four bowlers has six possible pairings, a captain of five bowlers has 10.
Through the heat Yousuf batted, and batted, and batted. Much has been made of his conversion from Christianity to Islam, but it is his conversion rate which troubles England. Almost every other start by Yousuf Youhana or Mohammad Yousuf is now turned into a century. In his first 20 Tests he scored a single century; in his next 47 Tests he has made 16, a ratio surpassed by Bradman alone in a complete career.
Yousuf came in on Friday evening to withstand Harmison's fiery burst and was not dismissed then or yesterday, finishing unbeaten on 185. His last innings against England was 223 in Lahore; this one must have spanned at least five prayer times. When he reached three figures, the bearded figure knelt and pressed his forehead to the heathen turf. If he makes 15 more runs, he will have scored more Test double-hundreds off his own bat (four) than all of England's batsmen have in this decade.
Pakistan were always going to stage one big partnership - it was the lesser ones which irked - and the fifth-wicket stand between Yousuf and his captain, Inzamam ul-Haq, added 173.
They came together at the outset after Mohammad Sami had been dismissed without scoring. England got rid of the night-watchman all right, it was the day-watchman who denied them.
As it turned out, England's captain, Andrew Strauss, had fewer than six pairings to choose from for most of the day. He had to bowl his two senior bowlers, Matthew Hoggard and Harmison, in tandem at the start and when the second new ball arrived after tea.
His two junior bowlers, Liam Plunkett and Monty Panesar, had to bowl together for much of the intervening time, and together they could not apply enough pressure to force the batsmen into errors.
Almost every over by Plunkett contained one loose ball. His wrist-action did not satisfy him, as his rehearsals showed.
Yet he is improving rapidly, only just 21, and is becoming a Test cricketer. He should talk to Ashley Giles, if he has not already done so, on how to bat at No 8.
Panesar had the disadvantage of bowling from the Pavilion end for the first half of the day, as the Durham bowlers wanted the Nursery end. It says much for the standard he has set in his seven Tests that it was the least of his performances so far, and he should have had one wicket for a leg-before appeal.
Unlike Giles, Panesar is a lesser bowler when he goes over the wicket. Unlike Kaneria in England's first innings, let alone the second, he could not turn the ball off the business part of the pitch. Maybe his confidence was affected by the decision not to promote him after his innings of 26 at Nottingham against Sri Lanka: the best way to make a man bat like a No 11 is always to bat him at No 11.
Through it all Yousuf's defence was impermeable. He was beaten past the outside edge by Plunkett with two consecutive balls, but nothing was going to go through him. If it had been Adelaide, an Australian right-handed batsman might have been slightly more punishing in the drive, and a bit more aggressive in running between wickets, but there would not have been the same imperturbability, as if Yousuf felt destined to make his century.
Out of the blue in mid-afternoon Inzamam was bowled behind his legs, an unforced error, except that he seemed to be deceived into thinking the ball was going to bounce higher than it did. It was his lowest score against England since the first Test of last winter's series, when Pakistan's captain was rolled over for the pittance of 53.
The evening session brought the second ball and the wicket of Abdul Razzaq, squared up by Harmison in defence, but no other immediate succour. As long as Yousuf held one end, while the lower order came and went, Pakistan were always going to come within range of England's total. The wonder is that the knowledge did not daunt him.
As for the rest of the game, the rate of wickets falling is likely to increase from the current rate of five per day. The pitch is close to the one for the Test against Sri Lanka but differs as siblings do. This one is already bouncing unevenly, and wearing as a pitch should, to help the spinner in the second innings. More of Yousuf, an hour of Shahid Afridi's hitting, and England's lamentable run may not be over, for Afridi's bowling when the ball keeps low will hold almost as many dangers as Kaneria's.
Last edited by MIG; 16th July 2006 at 07:43.