Cricket / Fifth Test: Pakistan profit from seam stress: Bowlers fail to deliver in their attempt to swing England's fortunes as the touring batsmen's belligerence begins to surface

Click to follow
The Independent Online
England . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .207

Pakistan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .275-4

WHEN Graham Gooch peered at the pitch on Wednesday morning, and proffered the observation that it would be 'a struggle to take wickets on this', he was rather hoping that the struggle would apply to both sides in the fifth Test. However, as Gooch had also examined the respective team sheets, hoping would have been a more accurate word than expecting.

Pakistan's reply of 275 for 4 to England's 207 all out represents as reasonable a position as Gooch could have expected this morning. On surfaces such as this, Salim Malik's 'popgun' verdict on the opposition attack is less likely to attract a writ from England's bowlers as from the manufacturers of toy pistols.

Neither, by their failure to select Ian Salisbury as a second spinner, rather than two identikit seamers in Tim Munton and Derek Pringle, is sympathy in order. Needless to say, England then omitted the fitter of the two, and Pringle can scarcely have bowled so ineptly for his country than he did yesterday.

Neil Mallender was not a great deal better, and tidy though Chris Lewis was, in terms of pace and aggression he is currently an imitation of the bowler who put both Ken Rutherford and Richard Hadlee in hospital on this same pitch in a 1990 Texaco Trophy game.

The one high-velocity weapon in Gooch's armoury is Devon Malcolm, although when you have only 207 runs to defend, you would prefer a bullet from a sniper's rifle rather than buckshot spread from a farmer's shotgun.

With runs at a premium, Gooch did not call upon Malcolm until high noon yesterday, and the fact that Malcolm does not shoot as straight as Gary Cooper was illustrated as early as his fourth delivery, which flew wide of a startled batsman, and between the even more startled first and second slips.

Malcolm's value, however, lies in his strike rate, which is better than that of any other bowler in the side bar (after only one Test at seamer-friendly Headingley) Mallender. Malcolm was certainly rapid yesterday, and when he did manage to locate something close to a landing area, he was the only England seamer to cause Pakistan's batsmen problems.

Otherwise, Philip Tufnell represented the solitary class act, and Tufnell deserved more reward than the wicket of Shoaib Mohammad for his subtle variations of flight and spin. He would have more than one wicket, too, but for a bizarre incident shortly before tea that illustrated the flawed concept of asking a part- time stumper to keep to a specialist spinner.

Javed Miandad, on 49, was so hopelessly beaten as he advanced down the pitch, that when umpire David Shepherd saw the flash from Alec Stewart's gloves, his finger shot up to confirm a routine stumping. The problem, however, was that Stewart had failed to make contact with the stumps, and by the time he rectified his forehand miss by whipping off the bails with his backhand, Javed had thrust the bat back into the crease.

Shepherd immediately reversed his decision, as he is perfectly entitled to, while Tufnell, who had presumably failed to see Stewart's initial gaffe, hopped down the pitch in frenzied disbelief. The last time I saw a spinner so flummoxed involved, under similar circumstances in a county game at Blackpool, Raymond Illingworth.

Illingworth (as cricketers used to do in less demonstrative days) contented himself with a weary shake of the head when Roger Tolchard also failed to hit the stumps. He was not quite so sanguine, however, when Tolchard was later injured, the now Test match umpire Barry Dudleston deputised, and the same batsman survived another stumping when Dudleston's swipe managed to make contact with the bails, but failed to knock them off.

'Booger me,' Illingworth said (or words to that effect), 'one booger can't reach t'bloody stumps, and t'other booger hasn't got t'strength to knock t'bloody bails off.' And with that, he removed his chewing gum, and booted it in the general direction of square leg.

In this series, square leg has been the position that umpires have retreated to with a fair degree of gratitude, although yesterday was not one of them. Shepherd was required to adjudicate that a snick from Aamir Sohail off Malcolm had carried to Stewart, while Dickie Bird was asked to return the favour when Lewis clung on to a low return catch from Javed.

The one decision that did not require too much thought yesterday involved Malcolm's first wicket, which, as it left Ramiz Raja with only one stump still standing, was scarcely open to doubt. It should be recorded, however, that both Sohail and Javed were entitled to refer their catches to arbitration, and both left without demur.

Ramiz paid the penalty for playing across the line, but in all other respects Pakistan's batsmen were able to do so without much fear of retribution. England's bowlers did not seam yesterday, neither, whether the ball was new or old, did they swing. Tufnell, who in one spell either side of tea reeled off figures of 17-6-24-1, deserved better, but as he is not allowed to bowl from both ends, England may not enjoy today any more than yesterday.

(Photograph omitted)