Cricket: Northants in fine fettle for the Cup

Northamptonshire 152 & 396-4 dec Pakistan 323 & 205-8 Match drawn

A day that began steadily, ended brightly but sagged rather shabbily in the middle, will ultimately have left neither side with cause for complaint as they focus on their more significant tasks ahead.

The tourists will be happy in the knowledge that, in Shadab Kabir they have uncovered a real gem of a left-handed batsman, waiting for his opportunity at Test level should Ijaz Ahmed, Inzamam-ul-Haq or Salim Malik fluff their lines.

Northamptonshire will go into their Cup double-header with Lancashire, first at Old Trafford tomorrow and then at Lord's on Saturday, in confident mood after an opening stand between Richard Montgomerie and Alan Fordham that was worth 255 when Fordham decided to retire.

Quite why he took that decision remained a mystery for some time, although as he has played little first-team cricket this season and is unlikely to feature in the Benson and Hedges Cup final perhaps he felt obliged to give a chance to someone who would be playing at Lord's. In the end, perhaps mindful of his average, he was listed as retired hurt, with apparent eye trouble, rather than retired out.

Fordham had reached a creditable century in the last over before lunch. Montgomerie went on to emulate his partner but the bowling throughout the afternoon was not very serious.

In all, Pakistan used 10 bowlers and two wicketkeepers before the declaration came, setting a target of 226 in what turned out to be 33 overs.

Kabir was promoted to open and he proceeded to cut and drive his way to 52 from only 60 balls before being caught low down at short extra cover by Rob Bailey off Jeremy Snape.

Wasim Akram and Ijaz Ahmed threatened to launch an assault, but it was nipped in the bud when Ijaz was run out for 39, made from only 30 balls. Wasim perished soon after and when Rashid Latif was bowled by Snape for a duck the game seemed to be up for Pakistan.

But Moin Khan and Asif Mujtaba took an instant liking to Snape's off- spin and put on 63 in double-quick time. Moin, eventually fell for 39 and the draw was effectively sealed when Montgomerie held a steepling catch to dismiss Saeed Anwar in the penultimate over.

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