Pakistan slump after Ponting rediscovers the colossus within

Australia 88 & 136-2 Pakistan 258
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The Independent Online

Australia came back yesterday and Pakistan visibly wilted. Considering the recent history between the sides it was entirely predictable. It was as if Pakistan were not only being made to pay for their temerity on the first day of the second Test but quite understood why there had to be retribution. How dare they be so cheeky.

In the afternoon of the second day, their shoulders slumped, fortune deserted them and the extreme late movement of the ball disappeared with it. Australia, having been bowled out for 88 and conceded a first-innings lead of 170 as a consequence, still trailed by 34 runs by the close.

But they had eight wickets in hand, their captain Ricky Ponting was bestriding the crease like a colossus once more and in partnership with his senior lieutenant, Michael Clarke, he was already looking to establish a lead which would be beyond their opponents.

Australia may be fallible but it is also true that they never consider a cause to be lost. They have beaten Pakistan in 13 successive Tests and in Sydney earlier this year their first-innings deficit was 206 and they still won.

Had Ponting been given out lbw when he shouldered arms to his first ball, Australia's second innings might have followed a similar course to their first. But umpire Rudi Koertzen, standing in his 108th and final Test match, spared him. His long stride forward saved him but there could have been no complaints as the ball from Mohammad Amir moved back late and sharply.

Thus reprieved, Ponting for the first time in weeks, began to play like a champion batsman once more. His pulling was as assertive as of yore and altogether he conducted himself like a man on a mission. It was on this ground 13 years ago that he announced himself as a Test cricketer with his maiden century.

Clarke was less composed and like Ponting might have been given out leg before while padding up but Koertzen was in benevolent mood. The pair had put on 81 for the third wicket after the potential trouble of 55 for two when bad light intervened.

Pakistan were listless, seemingly unable to grasp that the ball does not always swing on demand. They were not helped by their new captain, Salman Butt, whose field placings were sloppy and bowling changes bizarre.

After tea when Pakistan needed to come hard at Australia he decided to retain the services of the change bowler Umar Amin with Umar Gul, the least effective of his seam trio at the other end. When Amin was removed he entrusted a lacklustre leg-spinner Danish Kaneria with the Rugby Ground End.

The passion which had been all consuming on Wednesday morning had all but vanished. Mohammad Amir, especially with the new ball, and Mohammad Asif, when it was a little older, both had their moments but they were not doing battle as a cohesive unit.

Perhaps Butt placed too much faith in Amin because for the second time in two days he had made a breakthrough by persuading Shane Watson to chop on. Perhaps he had been persuaded that lesser bowlers on this surface could be potent having seen Watson disrupt Pakistan's batting for the second match in a week.

Having taken five wickets in an innings at Lord's, Watson's unthreatening if wicket-to-wicket medium pace accounted for six Pakistanis yesterday. In a post-lunch burst he took four wickets in 13 balls for seven runs. Jolly good for Watson but he still left everybody wondering how.

Pakistan began the day on 148 for 3 and never seemed capable enough or minded to establish an impregnable lead (though 170 is usually more than enough). Umar Akmal came out doing his regular impression of a bloke in a hurry by taking 11 off the first over during which he was also caught off a no ball.

He did not detain Australia much longer, edging one going across him, though Amin looked settled when he was caught at gully trying to take his bat out of the way of a slow bouncer but making the mistake of leaving it poised above his shoulders.

Watson's two strikes in successive balls in the first over after lunch effectively ended Pakistan's chances of a lead above 200. He had Kamran Akmal pushing to slip and then Amir leg before shouldering arms when it was missing by six inches (the irony of that not being lost in later interpretations of the law).

Some jolly last-wicket hitting which brought 24 from 24 balls made the advantage more significant than it might have been. The ball refused to swing but Amir, mature beyond his 18 years, showed a willingness to experiment with changes of angle and pace and was rewarded when Simon Katich again waltzed across, leaving his leg stump exposed.

Watson went, Ponting's departure might have opened the floodgates once more. As it is, Australia are looking formidable and Pakistan are looking as though they know it.

Headingley scoreboard

Second day of five: Australia trail Pakistan by 34 runs with eight wickets remaining; Australia won toss

Australia: First Innings 88 (M Aamer 3-20, M Asif 3-30)

Pakistan: First Innings Overnight: 148-3

U Amin c North b Hilfenhaus 25/0/4/52

U Akmal c Paine b Johnson 21/1/1/20

S Malik c Paine b Watson 26/0/3/48

†K Akmal c North b Watson 15/0/3/22

M Aamer lbw b Watson 0/0/0/1

U Gul b Watson 0/0/0/7

D P S Kaneria not out 15/0/1/18

M Asif run out 9/0/1/12

Extras (b 11, lb 9, nb 9) 29

Total (64.5 overs) 258

Fall 1-80, 2-133, 3-140, 4-171, 5-195, 6-222, 7-222, 8-224, 9-234, 10-258.

Bowling D E Bollinger 17-4-50-0, B W Hilfenhaus 20.5-3-77-2, S R Watson 11-3-33-6, M G Johnson 15-0-71-1, S P D Smith 1-0-7-0.

Australia: Second Innings

S R Watson b Amin 24/0/4/48

S M Katich b Aamer 11/0/1/19

*R T Ponting not out 61/0/6/103

M J Clarke not out 32/0/3/78

Extras (b 4, w 2, nb 2) 8

Total (2 wkts, 41 overs) 136

Fall 1-15, 2-55.

To bat M E K Hussey, M J North, †T D Paine, S P D Smith, M G Johnson, B W Hilfenhaus, D E Bollinger.

Bowling M Aamer 9-2-19-1, M Asif 13-1-42-0, U Gul 5-0-36-0, U Amin 6-1-12-1, D P S Kaneria 8-0-23-0.

Umpires I J Gould (Eng) & R E Koertzen (SA).

Match referee B C Broad.