A Day For The Purists and Pakistan

14 07 2010

What an absorbing day of test cricket that was! Brilliant because it was a balanced affair between bat and ball, with runs available if the batsman were willing to graft; movement throughout the day for the bowlers if they got it in the right areas; and all of this at a busy Lords cricket ground with Australia, if not quite on the rack, certainly in trouble. As England supporters we cannot help but feel joy when we see a scorecard of 229-9 and Australia batting – as everything from the South Africa England series earlier this year has been touted as a sign or omen for the Ashes, we cannot help but think this is a good one for England!

Of course Pakistan have yet to bat and it is fair to say that their bowling far outweighs their batting at this stage. Indeed in this test match we have two players making their debut at 3 and 4 which seems slightly dangerous when considering your opposition is Australia and their best player, Umar Akmal, has only played a handful of matches himself. Akmal is however a brilliant player as anyone watching the recent 20/20 internationals can testify and so hopefully can lead from the front.

It is the bowling that we want to talk about really as in Mohamed Asif, Mohamed Aamer and Umar Gul they have three top quality operators. Gul was guilty of bowling too short but Asif and Aamer were outstanding. It is an odious thing to compare anyone to Glenn McGrath, but in this case Asif’s performance was so similar to the great man that it was uncanny. 80 miles an hour, moving both ways and, when you consider this was at Lords where so often McGrath struck terror into English hearts, we couldn’t help but feel glad – finally the Aussies getting some payback! Asif has had a troubled time with injury and other slightly more nefarious issues going against him since his debut five or six years ago but his burgeoning record of 86 test wickets in 18 matches at an outstanding average of 23.01 indicate that he is up there with the best.

Mohamed Aamer on the other hand was quick, dangerous and quite incredibly only just 18 years old. He must be close to being amongst the best teenage fast bowlers ever which, when you consider he grew up playing cricket with a tape ball in a small village outside Rawalpindi, is quite extraordinary. English coaches at public schools with all possible facilities must be wondering where they have gone wrong…

The other piece of the puzzle was completed by Danish Kaneria who proved that the pitch was not simply a seamers paradise by bowling a testing 18 over spell and picking up two wickets. His setting up and wicket of Mitchell Johnson in particular was a joy to watch.

Looking ahead to day two, we worry that the Australian bowlers will be just as clinical as the Pakistani’s and, as mentioned above, they will be bowling at a much greener batting line-up. Afridi, in his first innings back from self imposed test exile, will be key as it is imperative he leads from the front and does not get himself out playing a silly shot. Salman Butt, who despite having played a good number of tests has never really established himself, and the Akmal brothers will also be important in what should be another intriguing day of test cricket.

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