Cricket: Tourists show both sides of their nature

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The Independent Online
Pakistan 297 Warwickshire 99-2

As Edgbaston sweltered, Pakistan displayed the two distinct sides of their cricketing character. Fronted by Saeed Anwar's superb century before lunch, the visitors looked a formidable side. Afterwards, when the Warwickshire bowlers at last found some direction, the fragility was startling and Pakistan, from their formidable position of 222 for 2, were bowled out for 297.

Such inconsistency has been a perennial problem and one that will no doubt come to frustrate the captain, Wasim Akram, before the summer is out. As ever, the abundance of talent is obvious and stunning, Saeed and Inzamam-ul-Haq showing as much when they dispatched the champion side's bowlers in a flurry of boundaries.

Yet just as noteworthy was the lack of discipline that followed once Inzamam had fallen to a decent ball from Darren Altree which the batsman edged to the wicketkeeper, Michael Burns. In fact, had Burns not spilt Ijaz Ahmed first ball, the Warwickshire bowlers would have had four chances to perform the hat-trick. As it was, three of the tourists fell first ball; one of them, Salim Malik, to the only first-class ball he has received on tour.

These days, unbridled talent is not usually enough to win a Test series, which could explain why such hard-nosed teams like Australia are rarely beaten by Pakistan. If England want to beat them, they must play on pitches that require discipline and graft, an observation a watching David Lloyd will no doubt be conveying in Saturday's selection meeting.

He will also be empowered to report that Saeed, whose run-a-ball 131 was his third first-class century of the tour, is in scintillating form. Likened to Brian Lara, the left-handed opener is especially strong on the off-side, though at present he relies far more on eye and flashing wrists than technique. Paradoxically, it is a strength that is also a weakness, and he was perhaps fortunate not be dismissed earlier than he was, when flashing at balls outside off-stump.

Hailing from Karachi, the 26-year-old Saeed has played just 14 Tests since his debut in 1990. Late last year, a serious bout of typhoid caused him to miss an overseas tour. But if that was an inconvenience that briefly set his career back, it has not sapped his strength, and he hit three sixes yesterday, the third of which sailed clean over extra cover to bring up his hundred.

Inzamam, though less fluent, was no less punishing. Straddling the crease like the colossus of Rhodes, the bulky right-hander stood as the Warwickshire bowlers delivered, pummelling them off back foot and front. It was only after he had gone that Warwickshire got back into the game.

With the bulk of the last session to bat, Nick Knight needed to show David Lloyd he had recovered form and fitness. Apart from the odd awkward moment, he has proved both, despite losing his partner Anurag Singh, caught by Saeed at slip off Mohammad Akram's first over. By the time stumps were drawn, Burns had followed, the victim of a bizarre dismissal as he slogged Mushtaq Ahmed into his foot, the rebound popping up to the keeper. Derek Crookes hit the fastest first-class century of the season as the South Africa A middle order punished some below-par Glamorgan bowling on the first day of the tour match in Cardiff. Crookes, 27, who has played three one-day internationals, reached his 100 off 77 balls during a fifth- wicket partnership of 180 with Hylton Ackerman.

It was an innings badly needed by the tourists, who were 41 for 4 when Crookes arrived. They were all out for an 346. Glamorgan were in trouble at 96 for 5 at the close.

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