Cricket: Key and Peters prosper

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The Independent Online
Pakistan Under-19s; 276 England Under-19s 332-8

AFTER SO much suicidal batsmanship on the first day of this second Youth Test it was a pleasure to watch proper cricket yesterday. England moved steadily to a first-innings advantage, thanks largely to a stand of 112 runs between Robert Key and Stephen Peters, though even they could not control the occasional urge to self-destruct before they calmed themselves, and prospered.

The third over of the day, however, brought a continuation of the wicket harvest that had seen Pakistan bowled out on a flat track in two sessions. The left-armer, Zahid Saeed, bent the ball into the pads of Ian Flanagan and Giles Haywood to reduce England to 40 for 2. A Dartford Bridge was then built between Kent's Key and Essex's Peters that by mid-afternoon had Pakistan bereft of ideas. Bazid Khan, the captain, dispensed with close fielders and assembled a defensive circle, waiting for something to happen.

The liveliest Pakistan bowler by far is the Waqar clone Irfan Fazil, who conjured up the ball of the day when a quick delivery leapt from just short of a length straight at Owais Shah's throat.

But Irfan remained wicketless - indeed, when he returned immediately after lunch Peters clipped, pulled and drove three fours in an over. After Zahid's early breakthrough it was the persevering Kashif Raza who accounted for Shah and, 33 overs later, Peters.

Key progressed to his third century of the season with a hook off Kashif into the new pavilion. Unlike those against Durham and Nottinghamshire, however, this international achievement is not deemed to be first-class. When he was sixth out, chipping a tired catch to mid-wicket, he had seen England into the lead.

The most intriguing bowling of the day came from Hasan Raza. He twirls variations on the leg-break with an off-break grip, and added richly to the day's entertainment. After tea he and the off-spinner Shoaib Malik reduced runs to a trickle and brought Pakistan back into the game, before Michael Gough and 16-year-old Mark Wallace eked out what could prove a useful lead.