Cricket: Croft ready to take on the Emburey role

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The Independent Online
While England's performance at The Oval has, overall, been most disappointing, there have been three definite and important gains. John Crawley's hundred was one, Alan Mullally's improved bowling has been another and the third has been Robert Croft's showing in his first Test match.

Croft's figures may not have been earth-shattering but there has been something most reassuring about the way in which he has played his cricket. The first thing one notices about him is that no one gives more to his captain and his side.

He is irrepressibly enthusiastic, he always wants to be in the game and, although not a natural greyhound, he is a fine fielder with an excellent throwing arm. His batting, too, will serve England well and he will soon find himself going in higher than number 10, for he is a better player than that.

As an off-spinner, he looks unlikely to bowl Test sides out - finger spinners hardly ever do these days - but he should play an important role for England, a role which for a long time was in the capable if rather too defensive hands of John Emburey.

Croft spins the ball and is a more attacking bowler than Emburey, whose middle-and-leg line to a leg-side field was as much to contain as to dismiss. Croft's admirable spirit seems sure to make him an excellent tourist and his generally enthusiastic demeanour will be good for the side.

In this final Test of the summer Mullally has been much the best of the seam bowlers. His control has been excellent and he was the only one of the seamers able to bowl a containing line on and outside the off-stump to Saeed Anwar. He also found movement and is learning to bring the ball back into the right-hander. Another bonus is that he seems to understand the art of reverse swing, which remains a mystery to so many.

It says a great deal for Mullally that after a slightly nervous start to his Test career this summer, he has learnt a great deal as it has gone on and is now a much better bowler than the one who played against India at Edgbaston in early June.

The Oval scoreboard

England won toss

ENGLAND - First innings 326 (J P Crawley 106, G P Thorpe 54; Waqar Younis 4-95).

PAKISTAN - First Innings

(Overnight: 339 for 4)

Salim Malik not out 100

(292 min, 223 balls, 10 fours)

Asif Mujtaba run out

(Lewis-Stewart TV replay) 13

(67 min, 44 balls, 1 four)

*Wasim Akram st Stewart

b Croft (TV replay) 40

(115 min, 81 balls, 4 fours, 1 six)

Moin Khan b Salisbury 23

(72 min, 46 balls, 2 fours)

Mushtaq Ahmed c Crawley b Mullally 2

(24 min, 18 balls)

Waqar Younis not out 0

(5 min, 6 balls)

Extras (b4 lb3 nb16) 25

Total (for 8 dec, 668 min,

159.1 overs) 521

Fall: 1-106 (Aamir Sohail) 2-239 (Ijaz Ahmed) 3-334 (Inzamam-ul-Haq) 4-334 (Saeed Anwar) 5-365 (Asif Mujtaba) 6-440 (Wasim Akram) 7-502 (Moin Khan) 8-519 (Mushtaq Ahmed).

Did not bat: Mohammad Akram.

Bowling: Lewis 23-3-112-0 (nb6) (5-1-24-0, 4-0-25-0, 3-0-27-0, 6-2-18- 0, 5-0-18-0); Mullally 37.1-7-97-3 (nb7) (4-1-20-0, 13-5-22-1, 13-1-35- 1, 6-0-14-0, 1.1-0-6-1); Croft 47-10-116-2 (2-0-3-0, 14-2-39-1, 13-4-22- 0, 12-4-31-1, 6-0-21-0); Cork 23-5-71-1 (nb8) (2-0-15-0, 3-1-13-0, 2-0- 10-0, 12-4-19-1, 4-0-14-0); Salisbury 29-3-116-1 (10-0-46-0, 4-0-25-0, 3-0-20-0, 2-1-3-0, 10-2-22-1).

Progress: Second day: 50: 48 min, 10.3 overs. Tea: 62-0 (Saeed Anwar 34, Aamir Sohail 23) 13 overs. 100: 86 min, 20.4 overs. 150: 148 min, 36.5 overs. 200: 191 min, 46.3 overs. Close: 229-1 (Saeed Anwar 116, Aamir Sohail 58) 56 overs. Third day: 250: 274 min, 67.2 overs. New ball taken after 80.1 overs at 290-2. 300: 337 min, 81.4 overs. Lunch: 318-2 (Saeed Anwar 169, Inzamam-ul-Haq 30) 85 overs. Rain during lunch delayed restart until 1.55pm. Rain stopped play 2.33-5.14pm at 338-4 (Salim Malik 2, Asif Mujtaba 0) 92.5 overs. Rain stopped play 5.23pm-close at 339-4 (Salim Malik 2, Asif Mujtaba 1) 94.3 overs. Fourth day: 350: 418 min, 99 overs. 400: 497 min, 115.1 overs. Lunch: 413-5 (Salim Malik 29, Wasim Akram 30) 122 overs. Rain delayed restart until 2.44pm. 450: 575 min, 135.2 overs. Tea: 473-6 (Salim Malik 63, Moin Khan 14) 144 overs. 500: 633 min, 150.1 overs. Declaration at 5.30pm.

Saeed Anwar 50: 80 min, 61 min, 9 fours. 100: 199 min, 135 balls, 16 fours. 150: 317 min, 224 balls, 22 fours.

Ijaz 50: 106 min, 88 balls, 8 fours.

Salim Malik 50: 200 min, 142 balls, 5 fours. 100: 292 min, 223 balls, 10 fours.

ENGLAND - Second Innings

*M A Atherton not out 26

(97 min, 81 balls, 3 fours)

A J Stewart not out 40

(97 min, 66 balls, 6 fours)

Extras (nb8) 8

Total (for 0, 97 min, 23 overs) 74

Bowling: Wasim Akram 7-0-35-0 (nb9) (one spell); Waqar Younis 7-1-24- 0 (4-0-11-0, 3-1-13-0); Mushtaq Ahmed 7-2-11-0, Aamir Sohail 2-1-4-0 (one spell each).

Progress: Fifth day: 50: 61 min, 13.4 overs.

Umpires: B C Cooray and M J Kitchen.

TV Replay Umpire: J C Balderstone.

Match Referee: P L van der Merwe.

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