Asif provides the resistance

Essex v Pakistan
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Asif Mujtaba, initially in a restorative stand of 64 with Rashid Latif, later continuing the reconstruction of the Pakistan innings into the afternoon, saved the visitors' embarrassment yesterday after a poor start. The wicket was flat, the sky cloudless and the ground well attended, but, having won the toss, Pakistan carried out an early preparation for the final Test on Thursday was at best absent-minded, at worst lackadaisical.

Aamir Sohail, recovered from his wrist injury and captaining the side while Wasim Akram rests, watched three Mark Ilott balls pass the bat before being bowled, and when the left-armer took his second over from the River End, Ahmed Ijaz played around a straight one.

At midday Inzamam-Ul-Haq wandered off, nursing his recurrent knee strain after making a solid 22, Salim Malik - out of sorts throughout this tour - snicked Ronnie Irani and, when only 63 had been scored, Saeed Anwar also returned to the dressing-room.

Although both sides, as is often the case when no points or trophies are at stake, have rested a few key players from this three-day fixture, this cannot have been a start to satisfy the tourists.

Asif repaired the innings, but even he survived an early rush of blood when Peter Such spun past bat, stumps and the wicketkeeper Barry Hyam with the batsman two yards down the pitch gazing at the sky. He chastised himself, and began to play more like a classic left-handed No 6, waiting for the ball to punish. Irani gave him four in a row at one point, and the Essex all-rounder's habit of stringing together irresistible half- volleys may continue to hinder his establishment as an international player. The quality of his batting and his wholehearted attitude are not in doubt, but those boundaries may say more about his bowling than his two wickets either side of lunch.

The promising off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq, who crushed Leicestershire on Friday with six for 52, proved that he could also help to shorten the Pakistan tail whenever he gets his chance to play alongside Mushtaq Ahmed in a Test match. But once he was out to a kneeling lbw, his senior bowler Waqar Younis made one wonder why he turned out for this match at all. It was certainly not to practise his batting - two dots and a yahoo was his mid- afternoon contribution.

It forced Inzamam to escort the troublesome knee back into the middle with Pakistan struggling at 172 for seven. Even on one leg, the powerful right- hander proved more than a match for the Essex bowlers.

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