All Butt's bases covered by Pakistan's potent pacemen

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The Independent Online

Overnight, as if the previous two years had been airbrushed from history, Pakistan have prospects in the series against England starting today. It has been provided, more or less entirely, by the quality of their fast-bowling attack which has abruptly found itself as the talk of the summer.

To hear some of the opinions being expressed it is as if the great attack of the Nineties had been reassembled, that Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and their sparring partner from 1996, Aaqif Javed, had been reincarnated as Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul.

This estimation should be repudiated but having bowled out Australia for 88 in Leeds last week, even if the pitch had been a minefield and the overhead conditions consisted of pea soup (they weren't) that would have been quite something. Australia detained them somewhat longer second time around – 261 runs and 62 overs longer – but the star had already risen by then.

There is no question that this trio have something and that it is something different in every case. Andrew Strauss was understandably reluctant to talk up the opposition on the eve of the series yesterday but he had to concede: "They're a good varied bowling attack. I don't think it's our job to overly hype the opposition. Most Test teams you play against have got a good bowling attack and Pakistan is one of the better ones we'll see."

Aamer at 18 has the world at his feet. Sound judges would include him in a world XI even now. He has pace, can swing it both ways, intelligence and a well disguised slower ball. The thought of how good he might be when he has more than 344.5 Test overs under his belt should have Test batsmen pondering alternative employment.

Aamer and his fellows seem to be the ideal pace combination as the Pakistan captain, Salman Butt, almost visibly purring, suggested yesterday. "Yes, they're very different. Mohammad Aamer has most skills that a fast bowler needs. He has pace on his side, swing and the mental side of Mohammad Aamer is very good. He is mature for his age. Mohammad Asif is, I think, one of the best seam bowlers in the world – very accurate lines and lengths and Umar Gul, I think, with the old ball, with the reverse swing is one of the most lethal guys in the world."

And there in a nutshell you had it. With a hint of assistance in the conditions this lot could cut through opposition batsmen. What Butt may ponder, of course, under Nottingham skies likely to favour the moving ball, is that England have a few dab hand practitioners themselves.

But it is also his great cause for optimism. "They bring a lot of confidence to me as a captain and us as a team because whatever totals you score, you are always confident you have a good bowling attack and you can defend it."

Given the nature of these things, it would be no surprise at all if, by the end of the series, the traditional and tedious aspersions were cast on Pakistan's ability to persuade movement from the ball. But Butt appears to be a sanguine leader who has no intention of harking back to the past.

He displayed no inclination whatever to summon the veterans, Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf to prop up the inexperienced batting middle order. Of Azhar Ali and Umar Amin he said: "I think they've both shown good character in difficult batting conditions. They have shown they are very bright for Pakistan's future. We have to support them and help them out of difficult situations." That was a message to the Pakistan administrators if ever there was one.

The trusted trio: Pakistan's impressive pace attack

Mohammad Aamer

Age 18 Tests 10 Wickets 32@35.46

Quickest member of the attack, swings ball both ways. Clever slower ball

Mohammad Asif

Age 27 Tests 19 Wickets 94@23.18

Career marred by drug bans. Accurate line and length. Swings ball both ways

Umar Gul

Age 26 Tests 28 Wickets 104@33.77

Tallest of the trio, Gul specialises in reverse swing and is naggingly accurate

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