Cricket / Third Test: England lack home comforts: Gooch and Smith prepare the case for the defence while Pakistan's Wasim and Waqar wait for Gower to take the stand

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Pakistan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .505-9 dec

England . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .72-2

AS ENGLAND'S cricketers contemplate two more days of life in the trenches, they might also be wondering whether the Test and County Cricket Board's apparent urge to make overseas visitors feel at home does not now extend to making their own players feel as though they are playing away.

There is no hard and fast edict on Test-match pitch preparation, but there is no doubt that this is a hard and fast pitch, and no doubt either as to which side it favours. Those England players of a more cynical, 'what next?' disposition await a TCCB edict on compulsory curry for lunch, and all lbw inquiries to be made in Urdu.

An English bowler's idea of a decent pitch is, in fact, a pitch that is anything but decent. Give them one of those slow, uneven strips of Plasticine so familiar in our domestic cricket, upon which medium- pacers capable of making the ball go sideways could be selected from the beer tent, never mind a county dressing room, and all those wristy sorcerers like Aamir Sohail would not be quite so hearty.

It is a flawed argument, as mediocre pitches produce mediocre players, but there is no doubt that England would have more chance of winning this series in conditions more familiar to their players than those for this match. Peter Marron, the groundsman, has done an exceptional job in producing a rock-hard surface, but, the players might argue, only with the compliance of rock-hard heads inside the TCCB offices.

When England were last on tour in Pakistan, one groundsman was responsible for all three Test pitches, and appeared to be working to the specific instructions of the Pakistani captain. So why not here?

'It is,' Micky Stewart said on Saturday night, 'board policy.' Question: 'Are you happy with board policy?' Pause, smile, pause again. 'I could give you my answer over a beer.' The England team manager has spent six years attempting to establish the principle of making the national side the No 1 priority, and only recently, one suspects, has he progressed to the point where he feels it is merely hard work.

'Let me put it this way,' Stewart added. 'I always want to see good cricket pitches. This is a good cricket pitch, and a credit to the groundsman.' None the less, Stewart would clearly like the manager and captain to have more input on pitch preparation. If they had been consulted a week before this Test match, they might have felt inclined to suggest that the hosepipe would be better employed in damping down the pitch than for cooling off the scoreboard.

Stewart's opposite number, Intikhab Alam, an old hand in English conditions, said that he had never seen an Old Trafford pitch as hard as this one, neither did he expect one - at any venue - on this tour. 'This is a nice pitch for bowling on,' he said, and he did not mean for England.

Pakistan can also be grateful for Old Trafford's sophisticated covering of the square. The large inflatable tent, with a back-up school of motorised whales for the outfield, is a far cry from Rawalpindi, where rain fell on one of England's 1987 World Cup matches, and the groundstaff set to work with blankets, a couple of buckets, and a hand-held battery fan. If England have the technology for getting a game started, Pakistan, in Wasim and Waqar, have the tools for getting one finished.

But for the tent, a lot more time would have been lost than it already has, and England would have had more chance of holding on for a draw. They resume this morning requiring a further 234 from eight wickets to avoid the follow-on, although the fact that this is a daunting task, rather than an impossible one, is entirely down to Pakistan's poor slip fielding on Saturday night.

Three catches went down, one offered by Alec Stewart, and the other two by Graham Gooch. The captain's second escape, when he edged Aqib Javed to Salim Malik just before bad light produced the last of the day's four stoppages, was as easy as any slip catch could conceivably be. Malik, who normally has hands like flypaper, went at it as though he had been lobbed a bar of soap in the shower.

Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis versus Gooch and Stewart in the Old Trafford gloom produced one of the most memorable contests of the summer so far. Wasim bowled beautifully, but if Waqar tended to pitch too short, he was scarcely short on venom. Whether this velocity was exclusively reserved for his Surrey team-mate is hard to say, as, remarkably, Gooch and Stewart did not change ends for 12 overs.

The resumption of the struggle today promises to be a fascinating one, not least because of the identity of England's next man in. When David Gower faced this attack at Southampton last week, he had the dubious privilege of being out twice in the same day, and the odds on it happening again may not be over-generous.

OLD TRAFFORD SCOREBOARD

(Pakistan won toss)

PAKISTAN - First Innings

(Friday: 388 for 3)

*Javed Miandad c Hick b Munton. . . . . . . . .88

(189 min, 123 balls, 11 fours)

Moin Khan c Gower b Malcolm. . . . . . . . . . 15

(81 min, 53 balls, 2 fours)

Salim Malik b Gooch. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34

(87 min, 69 balls, 5 fours)

Inzamam-ul-Haq c Gooch b Malcolm. . . . . . . .26

(78 min, 51 balls, 2 fours)

Wasim Akram st Russell b Gooch. . . . . . . . . 0

(8 min, 4 balls)

Waqar Younis not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

(12 min, 4 balls)

Mushtaq Ahmed c Lewis b Gooch. . . . . . . . . .6 .6

(9 min, 11 balls, 1 four)

Extras (b9 lb4 w2 nb3). . . . . . . . . . . . .18

Total (for 9 dec, 519 min, 126 overs). . . . .505

Fall (cont): 4-428 (Javed), 5-432 (Moin), 6-492 (Salim), 7-497 (Inzamam), 8-497 (Wasim), 9-505 (Mushtaq).

Did not bat: Aqib Javed.

Bowling: Malcolm 31-3-117-3 (nb1) (6-1-24-0, 6-0- 26-1, 6-0-14-0, 5-1-22-0, 6-1-23-1, 2-0-8-1); Lewis 24- 5-90-2 (nb1 w2) (4-1-17-0, 5-0-36-0, 3-1-5-1, 9-3-19-1, 3-0-13-0); Munton 30-6-112-1 (nb2) (7-1-36-0, 7-1- 30-0, 6-1-24-0, 10-3-22-1); Salisbury 20-0-117-0 (nb1) (9-0-45-0, 4-0-33-0, 7-0-39-0); Gooch 18-2-39-3 (9- 0-13-0, 4-1-17-0, 5-1-9-3); Hick 3-0-17-0 (one spell).

Progress: 400: 373 min, 92.5 overs. 450: 440 min, 107.4 overs. Lunch: 480 for 5 (Salim 25, Inzamam 19), 118 overs. Rain during lunch delayed restart until 1.48pm. Rain stopped play 2.05-2.45pm, 492 for 6 (Inzamam 22, Wasim 0), 121.5 overs. 500: 511 min, 124 overs. Pakistan declared at 3.04pm.

ENGLAND - First Innings

*G A Gooch not out. . . . . . . . . . 39

(105 min, 84 balls, 5 fours)

A J Stewart c Inzamam b Wasim. . . . .15

(65 min, 38 balls, 3 fours)

M A Atherton c Moin b Wasim. . . . . . 0

(2 min, 3 balls)

R A Smith not out. . . . . . . . . . . 5

(35 min, 11 balls)

Extras (lb1 w2 nb10). . . . . . . . . 13

Total (for 2, 105 min, 21 overs). . . 72

Fall: 1-41 (Stewart), 2-42 (Atherton).

To bat: D I Gower, G A Hick, C C Lewis, R C Russell, T A Munton, I D K Salisbury, D E Malcolm.

Bowling: Wasim 10-1-33-2 (nb10 w2) (one spell); Waqar 10-2-30-0 (one spell); Aqib 1-0-8-0.

Progress: Bad light stopped play 3.26-4.39, tea taken, 9 for 0 (Gooch 4, Stewart 4), 1.5 overs. Bad light stopped play 5.47-6.04 at 45 for 2 (Gooch 23, Smith 0), 16.1 overs. 50: 84 min, 17.4 overs. Bad light stopped play 6.32. Play abandoned 6.50.

Umpires: R Palmer and D R Shepherd.

(Photograph omitted)

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