Hoggard and Giles bail out rusty England

England 126 Pakistan A 127-8
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The Independent Online

"Striking the ball well at practice" is the utterance regularly used by members of this England side after a disappointing day with the bat, but having been bowled out for 126, and with everyone bar Trescothick being short of time in the middle, the Ashes winners must be starting to fret. Matthew Hoggard and Ashley Giles saved England from embarrassment in the afternoon when they shared seven wickets and, when bad light brought a premature end to play, Pakistan A were teetering on 127 for 8.

The result of this match is largely irrelevant, it is the confidence and form the players take into the first Test that is important, but should they fail as a unit again today, the net bowlers in Multan could be in for a busy week.

Writing off the chances of this England side is a dangerous and ill-advised practice, but it has been tempting on each of their recent tours, which they have started looking completely out of touch. But on each occasion they have made fools of their critics by returning home victorious. These wins have given them the confidence not to panic but Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, will know that sooner or later the trend will come to an end.

"We are not happy with our batting performance today," said opener Andrew Strauss. "When we first looked at the pitch we thought it looked pretty good and maybe we got lulled into thinking it would play better than it did.

"The pitch did a bit this morning and sometimes you nick the ball more on pitches that do a bit rather than a lot, but we should be good enough to react. In the last two games we have been four or five wickets down before we have realised the pitch is not as good as we thought and we must start assessing that a little bit earlier.

"You can't read too much into our form because the Test pitches could be very different to these, but it is important that we practise hard, prepare properly and learn from what has happened before the first Test."

Batting during the morning session was difficult against two pacemen keen to impress Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach. Mohammad Asif, who claimed 7 for 62, and Shahid Nazir bowled with aggression. Both swung the ball to reduce England to 53 for 7 within 18 overs. Vaughan would have had no idea the ball would behave as it did - why else did he choose to bat on winning the toss?

On days like this, the quality of the pitch is inevitably questioned, yet this is not a dangerous or inconsistent surface. That England's batsmen were unable to cope with what were virtually English conditions highlighted how little county cricket they now play. Their techniques are drilled to bat on dry, flat surfaces where they can hit through the ball without moving their feet.

But batting with an aggressive intent when the ball is nipping around is fraught with danger. Strauss was the first to go when he hung his bat out at a ball from Shahid and edged a catch to third slip. Trescothick fell without a run being added when he pushed loosely at a full ball from Mohammad and was bowled.

Neither Vaughan nor Kevin Pietersen looked comfortable during the 25 minutes they spent together and both were dismissed in consecutive overs when they too edged loose drives.

Paul Collingwood, having been selected here ahead of Ian Bell, now seems certain to play in Multan. But he wasted the chance to impress when he slashed wildly and gave Shahid Yousuf his third catch.

Geraint Jones was bowled groping at a nip-backer for nought and Andrew Flintoff crashed a couple of fours before chipping a ball that stopped on him to mid-off.

The bowling of Stephen Harmison and Flintoff looked rusty, but Hoggard started superbly. The Yorkshireman took 8 for 30 here in 2000 and he may have to take as many wickets if England are to win this game.

Scoreboard from Lahore

England won toss

England - First Innings

M E Trescothick b Mohammad Asif 8

A J Strauss c Yousuf b Shahid Nazir 5

M P Vaughan c Yousuf

b Mohammad Asif 17

K P Pietersen c Amin-ur-Rehman

b Shahid Nazir 4

P D Collingwood c Yousuf b

Mohammad Asif 0

A Flintoff c Arshad Khan

b Mohammad Asif 9

G O Jones b Mohammad Asif 0

A F Giles b Mohammad Khalil 21

S D Udal c Taufeeq Umar b

Mohammad Asif 23

M J Hoggard not out 11

S J Harmison c Amin-ur-Rehman

b Mohammad Asif.. 18

Extras (lb4 w5 nb1) 10

Total (35.1 overs) 126

Fall: 1-13, 2-13, 3-34, 4-34, 5-40, 6-44, 7-53, 8-87, 9-101.

Bowling: Shahid Nazir 10-5-18-2; Mohammad Asif 16.1-2-62-7; Arshad Khan 1-0-2-0; Mohammad Khalil 8-1-40-1.

Pakistan A - First Innings

Imran Farhat lbw b Hoggard 23

Taufeeq Umar c & b Hoggard 6

Faisal Athar c G O Jones b Hoggard 0

Yousuf b Hoggard 10

Hasan Raza lbw b Giles 34

Mansoor Amjad b Collingwood 7

Amin-ur-Rehman c Flintoff b Giles 32

Arshad Khan lbw b Giles 0

Shahid Nazir not out 6

Mohammad Asif not out 1

Extras (b4 nb4) 8

Total (for 8 wkts, 30 overs) 127

Fall: 1-9 2-9 3-29 4-46 5-58 6-118 7-118 8-124.

To bat: Mohammad Khalil.

Bowling: Hoggard 8-0-39-4; Harmison 9-0-44-0; Collingwood 4-1-14-1; Flintoff 5-1-12-0; Giles 4-1-14-3.

Umpires: Mian Aslam and Saleem Badar.