Crawley quick to take charge

THIRD TEST: England still need more runs to put pressure on Pakistan as they attempt to square series
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The Independent Online
A satisfactory opening day for England will have given way to a sleepless night for John Crawley, who is just six short of a maiden Test century. However, that milestone is only the first on a long agenda and England will have to continue to bat well in this third and final Test if they are to reach a big enough score to put Pakistan under pressure.

Crawley, who played exquisitely, has been a patient man. His Test career has been blighted by injury and disappointment. Since his debut, against South Africa in 1994, Crawley has played 12 Tests, his sporadic appearances suggesting the selection of a nearly man, destined to be dropped every time another option came along.

Apart from the cruel hamstring tear that curtailed his tour to South Africa last winter, he has made way for the likes of Mike Gatting and Mark Ramprakash. Yet, if grudges were held, they were saved exclusively for Pakistan's bowlers who felt the brunt of the Lancastrian's thwarted ambition.

Crawley delivered his captain's pre-match request for quick, attractive runs with controlled aggression after Alec Stewart had set a cracking pace in the morning. Like Crawley, Stewart was in sublime form, pulling and driving at will. When he is in form, few can rival Stewart's sweetness of stroke and by the 12th over he had taken all his six boundaries off Waqar Younis, his old Surrey team-mate.

The Pakistan bowler's propensity to bowl two lengths - very short or very full - can backfire and, apart from Atherton, who was slowed by a nasty blow to the collar-bone by a quick bouncer from Wasim, runs came freely.

Unlike England, the visitors opted for a four-man bowling attack. But if there was a suspicion that Wasim may have been carrying an injury into the game - he missed both his side's county games after Headingley - they were certainly hampered by an on-field injury to Mohammad Akram, who needed a cortisone injection to his ribs to get through the afternoon session.

But with England's 50 coming in the 12th over, the much-touted pace attack was proving expensive, and Wasim was forced to turn to Mushtaq Ahmed. Two balls later he had done the trick, bowling Stewart for 44 with a harmless looking delivery that the batsman had tried to whip to leg.

Stewart was certainly nonplussed and for a while refused to budge. He had been playing so well that such a soft dismissal was certainly not in his script, and only when the fielding side's celebrations had subsided did he realise the irredeemable truth spelt by the sight of three stumps minus their bails.

Nasser Hussain looked his usual aggressive self until Waqar found him out, the fast bowler forcing him to reveal an old weakness as a rising delivery was steered inch perfect into Saeed Anwar's hands at second slip.

It gave Waqar the lift he needed and he responded by removing Atherton, who was still being troubled by the painful blow he had received in the second over of the day. Pakistan, like the West Indies before them, decided to use Atherton for target practice and he received far more short balls than his colleagues. However, although he coped well, it forced him into going further across his stumps than normal, a move that Waqar exploited when he bowled the England captain behind his legs.

It left England at 116 for 3 and facing a period of cautious repair from the middle order. It came, but gloriously rather than with care with both Thorpe and Crawley scoring freely, particularly against Mushtaq.

Both players reached their fifties in the same over, Thorpe's coming off 89 balls, Crawley's off 70 as Pakistan began to look ragged. Only a game effort by the injured Mohammad Akram prevented them crumbling.

His eventual reward was to trap Thorpe lbw for 54, and though replays showed that the Surrey left-hander was unlucky - the ball pitched outside leg-stump - it was the 18th time out of 20 that he had failed to convert a half-century into a hundred.

Only after tea when Pakistan slowed things down did the scoring rate drop well below four an over as Mushtaq sought to wrest control from England. It worked, too, slowing Crawley - who reads him better than most - to a trot as the hundred milestone was approached with rare caution.

It also accounted for Nick Knight, who tried to keep the little leg-spinner guessing by adopting a curious mix of hitting and stonewalling. Having dragged Mushtaq from outside off-stump for a mighty six over midwicket, he was later bowled padding away a ball that unluckily found its way to the stumps via knee-roll and elbow.

Chris Lewis, preferred to Andrew Caddick in an England bowling attack that included both spinners, went next, Wasim squeezing an inswinger through a wall of bat and pad. It was a late wicket that just about evened up a day dominated by Crawley.

Henry Blofeld, page 23