Cricket: Test fate lies with spinners

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The Independent Online
Pakistan Under-19 276 & 178-4 England Under-19 430

WITH THE wicket flattening out by the hour, England chose to bat on after lunch yesterday to put their first innings score as far as possible beyond Pakistan's undisciplined effort on the first day. The key to a result today will lie with the spinners, and Northamptonshire's Graeme Swann found immediate purchase in the afternoon after the seamers had toiled in vain.

When the Pakistan spinners Hassan Raza and Shoaib Malik were twirling their team back into contention on Wednesday, it was fortuitous for England that their most durable batsman, Durham's Michael Gough, was yet to come in after treatment for a back spasm. Gough proved to be the rock on which England's first-innings advantage was built yesterday, but he has no truck with the idea that cricket is an entertainment. His 50 took 204 balls. He was bravely supported by Glamorgan's 16-year-old Mark Wallace, who survived a further 90 minutes yesterday before Essex's Jamie Grove clumped a brisker 23.

A lead of 154, with almost five sessions of the match left, could still prove decisive, but it was predictable that the Pakistani youngsters had been warned not to waste their wickets as they had on the first morning. While Grove and Paul Franks searched fruitlessly for variation in the wicket, Inam-ul-Haq and Tofeeq Umer compiled a cautious opening of 65 and the game moved up a gear when Raza, the world's youngest Test player at 14, came in second wicket down.

He treated Gough's off-spin with contempt, so Owais Shah turned briefly back to Grove's pace. A straight boundary was the answer and when Raza smoked Swann for two off-side boundaries he moved to 25 in 13 balls. When dismissed by Swann, Raza had put his side into credit but, with Tofeeq also gone, Pakistan ended effectively 24 for 4.