Cricket: Pakistan close to jackpot

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Derbyshire 216

Pakistanis 98-3

PAKISTAN'S cricketers have brought flair and excitement to this summer's cricket, as well as a certain abrasiveness. They have also brought to England a style of bowling which, the county game being so receptive, might catch on in a generation or two.

One of the most tedious sights in county cricket has long been that of tailenders prodding away for hour after hour. Indeed, it is a main reason why three days are no longer sufficient for most matches. Padded head to toe, they can even resist the short ball brainlessly pounded at them. But they have no answer to the yorkers which Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram have patented.

Yesterday Derbyshire reached 206 for 4, having opted to bat first on a dead slow pitch devoid of seam movement. Having won seven of their nine county games before this one, the tourists looked to have found some resistance at last. A quick flurry later, Derbyshire were 216 all out and feathers were fluttering out of their dressing-room as if a fox had been in the hen-coop.

Derbyshire's specialist batting had done commendably enough, but they do lack an all-rounder to bind the chalk with the cheese. As good a definition of a collapse as any is having your No 6 left high, dry, and not out with two.

It was not surprising that the Pakistanis took some time to warm up. In the morning the only members of their party who would have felt at home were those born in the foothills of the Himalayas, above the snow-line. The left-handed Andy Brown batted neatly through 31 overs for 27 runs; Peter Bowler, the leading run-scorer this season, was bowled between bat and pad to become Mushtaq's 50th first- class wicket of the tour.

There was precious little in the pitch either to encourage the tourists. John Morris, solidly, Tim O'Gorman, circumspectly, and Chris Adams, boldly, all hit nine fours, and Adams a six when he pull-drove Mushtaq. Then the disintegration began: six wickets for 10 runs, perhaps prompted by a hint of pallid sunshine to set the tourists' blood coursing.

Ata-ur-Rehman first had Adams caught in the gully (Rehman was playing instead of Aqib Javed, who has a twisted left knee, but the umpires Ken Palmer and Mervyn Kitchen can relax in the knowledge that Aqib is expected to be fit for Headingley). Waqar then took two wickets in an over with those full-length balls which seem to find the tailender's blind spot.

A tail-ender is someone who stimulates Wasim to peel off his sweater and go round the wicket. With six balls he knocked the stumps over three times. Perfection is rare in cricket, but this was perfectly effective bowling.

Although the Pakistanis soon lost two wickets, Aamir Sohail chasing a wide ball when a single short of his thousand runs, Asif Mujtaba and Inzamam-ul-Haq batted pleasantly in the evening. Only 118 runs behind on the first innings, the tourists should go on to win their eighth county game out of 10, and thus win their pounds 50,000 jackpot from Tetley Bitter, with two matches still in hand.

Only two touring teams since the war have gone through a summer unbeaten: Don Bradman's 1948 Australians, who beat 15 counties out of 20, and the 1974 Pakistanis under Intikhab Alam, who beat seven counties out of 10. It is no coincidence that Intikhab is team manager this time, for he knows that the best way to prepare for Test matches is to win county games.

This tour might have been different in its playing record if Imran Khan had declared himself recovered from his shoulder injury and been captain. It is hard to think that he would have been at his most dynamic on a slate-grey day at Derby, had he appeared at all.