Cricket: Ramiz puts on elegant display

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Pakistanis. .357-8 dec

Gloucestershire. .12-0

WITH the sun shining on a hard, flat wicket, opinion around the boundary was divided among the Gloucestershire crowd. Either the captain, Tony Wright, asked the Pakistanis to bat on his treasurer's instructions, in an attempt to stretch the game into the third day, or the Pakistanis would win in two days whether they had batted or bowled.

Without Courtney Walsh, Gloucestershire's bowling showed considerable courtesy towards their visitors. In return the Pakistanis treated a fair sized crowd, including many of their own supporters, to a graceful exhibition. Gloucestershire eventually gained some control, however, in curbing the evening run-chase.

Pakistan rested Javed Miandad, Asif Mujtaba and Waqar Younis from the side that won the Oval Test. Since their intended warm- ups for the one-day internationals were washed out at Taunton last week they were no doubt keen for match play.

The batting practice may have had particular significance for Inzaman-ul-Haq, omitted at the Oval, and Ijaz Ahmed, flown in from Pakistan on Friday with just this game to demand a one-day place. In late afternoon they shared a productive stand, though Ijaz's flashing snick to Jack Russell cannot have helped his cause.

The morning began with a carefree display from Aamir Sohail. Having made an adventurous 46 he drilled a shoulder-high ball back to bustling Tim Hancock, who could not hold it. So, next ball, Aamir gave a catch to mid-off instead.

His replacement, Shoaib Muhammad, is of sterner stuff. He shared a stand of 137 with the day's biggest scorer, Ramiz Raja.

Ramiz's century was a model of elegant determination, respectful of a good-length ball, murderous when given the chance. But having passed the landmark he threw the bat, particularly at left-arm spinner Mark Davies, until the persevering pace of Justin Vaughan was rewarded with a caught-and-bowled.

A flurry of pre-declaration wickets brought belated home success, in particular to young Richard Williams. He, like Mark Alleyne, is a product of the Haringey Cricket College, and gives a warming impression of thoroughly enjoying his cricket, bowls straight and briskly, and could prove another success for that remarkable but sadly short- lived sporting academy.

Earlier the Pakistanis might have thought of batting on. Gloucestershire's reward for preventing this was a dubious one - batting for 21 minutes in fading light.