Aamer dazzles to offer Pakistan the hope of a brighter future

The 18-year-old fast bowler has the talent to become one of his country's true greats
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The Independent Online

You couldn't get much that is more precisely half-formed than this Pakistan team that so recently beat the Australians and now awaits something close to evisceration by England.

Nor are their likely conquerors today exactly a work close to reaching perfection as they acknowledge their huge debt to the batting of Test newcomer Eoin Morgan and the revived swing bowling of Jimmy Anderson. Take away these contributions, and England would be reeling at the prospect of Ashes action in a few months' time.

However, if we are talking about fragments and fractions here, and as many weaknesses as strengths in both dressing rooms, it would be negligent not to dwell at least for a little while on a player so gloriously wholesome unsentimental judges are already talking about potentially one of the greatest of careers.

The iconic Wasim Akram was presented with something of his own image when he first saw Mohammad Aamer as a 15-year-old of outrageous confidence and deep, wide talent. Now the Pakistani hero can congratulate himself on alerting a cricket board not always noted for its visionary flair – and who managed to offer the latest prodigy a contract of mere C-level status.

This was a little like offering Aamer a place in a chorus stall but then at 18 he is making it clear that he is ready to occupy a centre stage of cricket anywhere from Barbados to Brisbane.

Here these last two days, in the flood of English dominance released by Morgan's bold hitting and Anderson's eager seizing of his optimum bowling conditions, he has looked separate from all around him in the most brilliant way. He looks like a supreme sportsman, eager and lithe, and his temperament seems to be perfectly pitched for the challenge of a long journey at the top of his game.

As it was with the young Sobers and Tendulkar and Lara, so it is with Mohammad Aamer. You have to remind yourself how young he is – and then speculate on quite how far his talent will stretch.

If Pakistan should happen to scratch their way to the follow-on target of 155 this morning, a prospect made entirely feasible by the late hitting of fellow seam bowler Umar Gul and his own exemplary, watchful aggression after the batsmen had crumbled abjectly before Anderson and Steve Finn to a miserable 47 for 6, Aamer could yet play a vital role in a match that England threatened to overrun by mid-afternoon yesterday.

However, Aamer's burgeoning legend has already been served well enough here over the last few days.

His most dramatic day's work in Test cricket thus far came in Melbourne when, while still 17, he gained the three key Australian scalps of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey. Here, though the impression has been spread over two days of extraordinary authority with one characteristic becoming increasingly apparent.

It is extreme patience in the face of the worst of luck. He bowled beautifully on Thursday while sending back Andrew Strauss, Alistair Cook and Jonathan Trott, but he also knew that with a little more luck, and competence by his team-mates in the slips and behind the wicket, he would surely have claimed the five-wicket haul at the spiritual home of Harold Larwood that eventually fell to his team-mate Mohammad Asif.

Frustration might have spilt over in a lesser man, and certainly a lesser youth, when possibly the most serious crime of all was committed against his unflagging aggression with the ball. The atrocity was committed by Imran Farhat in the slips. He dropped Morgan after one of the most comfortable of edges; the big prize had literally slipped through Pakistani fingers and the reaction of the victim could easily have been volcanic. Instead, he almost languidly kicked the air. It was the gesture of someone who suspected that there might be quite a more opportunities along the way.

That idea was only enhanced when Aamer returned to the action with a bat in his hand. Periodically he leant on it as though he didn't have a care in this little bit of the world he had come to command so impressively and when he struck four boundaries they came with perfect timing. He was careful, defiant for most of his watch, which brought 25 runs in 87 minutes, and when it was over there was the powerful sense that Pakistan had lost their best chance of deliverance.

Gul disputed this quickly enough, though, with his bold hitting and as Pakistan walked off in the failing light they were still alive in the hope that they could avoid the follow-on. It was a possibility which seemed to offer not much more than a temporary reprieve, yet they are a team who in their best moments do seem prepared to believe that they may just a batsman or two away from becoming once again a significant force in Test cricket.

England's problem, probably, is that they are always a little too ready to make that same reach of faith in their own powers. Here, they were quite feeble in their batting when the contributions of Morgan and Paul Collingwood were removed and, if Anderson was a lion yesterday, there were was not much chance of anyone forgetting that when conditions are less favourable, he does have a tendency to be less influential.

Still, it is a hard point to make when a man has reduced most of the opposition to a pile of rubble. Anderson in the mood is a formidable performer indeed and Pakistan, with a few notable exceptions, seemed to have little heart for the battle once he had established that this was likely to be his day, his triumph. Naturally, Mohammad Aamer refused to be cowed and if there is one certainty left here it is one that will surely outstrip any possible result. It is that at 18 the future, if not this particular Test series, belongs to him. The real ones, the great ones, never leave much doubt about this. Aamer has certainly been explicit enough.