Cricket: Stewart masks the deficiencies

SECOND TEST: Moin punishes helpless England attack before opener responds with a smooth half-century
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Pakistan 458 England 104-1

There was a markedly better crowd here yesterday, but if those present were hoping for England to make amends for Thursday's limp bowling performance, they were disappointed. Pakistan, already sensing their opponents helplessness, piled further embarrassment upon a team already humiliated by a pitch whose early promise had turned foul.

Having made 448, Pakistan had 22 overs to inflict a mortal wound on England, which, given their usual brittleness when faced with large totals, was more than enough. Yet it did not happen, and just as Headingley's pact with England's bowlers had fallen foul of some aggressive strokeplay, so too did Pakistan's, the stinging retort from Alec Stewart's bat bringing him an unbeaten fifty, off only 57 balls.

It was a commanding knock, as silken as it was swift, following as it did in the wake of Atherton's early departure, caught behind off an inside- edge. If proof was needed that this pitch was always too good not to bat first on, then Stewart, whose eight boundaries covered every shot in the book, was it.

True England's bowlers have been inconsistent and persistently bowled too short, but the pitch now looks as flat as any this summer. Moin Khan was quick to take advantage of that, and his chirpy century was yet another beam of Pakistani sunlight to throw into sharp relief the England captain's decision to field first, which increasingly looks like a last desperate roll of the dice rather than a choice steeped in logic and reason.

Whatever the reasons - protracted, or instant and from the gut - the decision was certainly to Moin's liking as he clipped, cut and stole his way to his century, the first to be made by a Pakistan wicketkeeper against England. It was a fine effort, and one all the more poignant considering that he would not have played had Rashid Latif not injured his back.

Like Ijaz Ahmed, the other century-maker here, Moin has had an intermittent Test career. Since his debut six years ago, the 24-year-old from Karachi has played just 19 Tests. His sporadic appearances including a spell of captaincy during a one-day tournament in Sharjah. Even so, he now has three centuries to his name, a number not bettered by many modern wicket- keepers with far more Tests to their names.

It might never have happened, however, had Alan Mullally not dropped a fairly straightforward catch at long leg when the keeper had eight. And although the damage to England's chances of staying in touch had been done by the time Dominic Cork put down a caught and bowled, they were chances that ought to have been taken.

England's bowling so wholeheartedly poor on Thursday, was better directed yesterday, though it lacked the conviction of those happy and strong enough to shrug off the culpability of the previous day's fiasco. Tellingly, not a wicket was taken in the morning session as Moin and the gritty Asif Mujtaba added 69 runs.

Only Cork, still managing to bristle after Moin had clobbered him straight for a six, looked hungry for wickets, despite the idignity of having Jack Russell stand up to him behind the stumps. In the end he took three of the four wickets to fall, managing to finish with the third five-wicket haul of his career.

Unfortunately for England, his fellow bowlers appeared intent on reining back, sensing a draw to be the best result they could hope for. Chris Lewis, having bowled well against India, started well, beating Moin twice in his first over, but if the puerile suggestion of a good public school flogging aired in one of the broadsheets was an early motivation, he soon lapsed back into a familiar failing here, by dragging the ball down short. At least he tried to hit the pitch, which was more than Andy Caddick and Mullally did, the pair settling for a negative line.

It was a mildness that allowed Asif to ease his way to a slow fifty, an innings that seemed set in concrete until Graeme Thorpe, unsighted at slip, managed to cling to a hot chestnut of a catch off Cork. Moin followed after tea, edging an attempted cut to Russell, who would have enjoyed the best view of Cork's next dismissal, a brilliant caught and bowled that Waqar Younis clouted back at him out of the meat of the bat.

The rowdy Western terrace, so often the crucible for vulgarity at this ground, roared into life, revelling in the bowler's lengthy eyeballing of the Pakistani fast bowler, a foolhardy thing to do with your batsmen about to go and face him.

When the time came, however, there was nothing cowed about England's response, Atherton striking a rapid 14, including a back-foot drive off Waqar, whose origins were closer to the Caribbean than Manchester. Sadly it did not last, Wasim Akram finding the inside edge of a diagonal bat.

Happily for England, for whom a draw is the only realistic result, it is a mistake Pakistan have not looked like inducing since.

Headingley scoreboard

England won toss

PAKISTAN - First Innings

(Overnight: 281 for 6)

Asif Mujtaba c Thorpe b Cork 51

(267 min, 220 balls, 4 fours)

Moin Khan c Russell b Cork 105

(282 min, 191 balls, 10 fours, 1 six)

Mushtaq Ahmed c Atherton b Caddick 20

(81 min, 43 balls, 2 fours)

Waqar Younis c and b Cork 7

(10 min, 11 balls, 1 four)

Ata-ur-Rehman not out 0

(3 min, 1 ball)

Extras (b4, lb10, nb10) 24

Total (644 min, 153.2 overs) 448

Fall (cont): 7-378 (Asif), 8-434 (Moin), 9-444 (Waqar).

Bowling: Caddick 40.2-6-113-3 (nb1) (6-1-12-0, 7-1-24-1, 4-1-15-0, 5- 1-15-0, 4-1-11-1, 5-0-12-0, 5-1-6-0, 4-0-14-0, 0.2-0-4-1), Mullally 41- 10-99-2 (nb5) (5-1-15-1, 9-1-26-1, 2-1-9-0, 8-2-23-0, 8-4-12-0, 4-0-4- 0, 5-1-10-0), Lewis 32-4-100-0 (nb3) (4-0-24-0, 6-0-21-0, 4-1-7-0, 4-1- 10-0, 5-0-19-0, 5-2-7-0, 2-0-4-0, 2-0-8-0); Cork 37-6-113-5 (nb5) (7-0- 25-0, 7-2-23-0, 7-3-11-2, 5-1-13-0, 8-0-29-1, 3-0-12-2); Thorpe 3-1-9- 0 (1-0-3-0, 2-1-6-0).

Progress: 300: 411 min, 98.5 overs. 350: 497 min, 119.3 overs. Lunch: 350-6 (Asif Mujtaba 39, Moin Khan 54) 120 overs. 400: 586 min, 140.2 overs. Tea: 423-7 (Moin Khan 100, Mushtaq Ahmed 9) 148 overs. Innings closed: 4.35pm. Asif Mujtaba 50: 255 min, 209 balls, 4 fours. Moin Khan 50: 143 min, 91 balls, 6 fours, 1 six. 100: 272 min, 181 balls, 10 fours, 1 six.

ENGLAND - First innings

*M A Atherton c Moin b Wasim 12

(12 min, 13 balls, 2 fours)

A J Stewart not out 52

(102 min, 68 balls, 8 fours)

N Hussain not out 37

(88 min, 70 balls, 3 fours)

Extras (b2, lb1) 3

Total (for 1, 102 min, 25 overs) 104

Fall: 1-14 (Atherton).

To bat: G P Thorpe, N V Knight, J P Crawley, R C Russell, C C Lewis, D G Cork, A R Caddick, A D Mullally.

Bowling: Wasim Akram 7-0-22-1 (one spell); Waqar Younis 4-0-37-0 (nb1) (1-0-11-0, 3-0-26-0); Ata-ur-Rehman 6-0-20-0 (3-0-15-0, 3-0-5-0); Mushtaq Ahmed 8-2-22-0 (one spell).

Progress: 50: 47 min, 10.5 overs. 100: 89 min, 21.2 overs.

Stewart 50: 89 min, 57 balls, 8 fours.

Umpires: S A Bucknor and D R Shepherd.