Three days late, Harmison turns up

At last England and their wayward spearhead begin to show a semblance of their true form, but it is far too little, far too late to deny Pakistan an impregnable position
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The Independent Online

England were hardly transformed yesterday, but they ceased to resemble the disorderly horde who had arrived for the early part of the Fourth Test. The match may, probably will, still slip from them, but at last they showed the determination to compete as if they were the second best team in the world.

A deficit of 331 was hardly any sort of platform to save the match, but Pakistan were not allowed quite to dominate affairs, as they had threatened at the start of the third day. By the close of another long, fractured day which never found much rhythm, England had reduced this to 253 with nine wickets in hand. In doing so, another niggling worry was compounded.

The stalwart opener Marcus Trescothick was out for four, caught in familiar territory behind the wicket after failing to move his feet. Trescothick is beginning to look like a jaded batsman, one who has played too much cricket for too long. He has made 323 runs in 12 Test innings this summer, his comeback after he left the Indian tour for personal reasons which amounted to the fact that he was temporarily spent. That total includes the 160 he made immediately on his return.

Trescothick looked forlorn as he trudged off, a man who knew the questions but not where to find the answers. He has, in essence, 95 days to do so because that is when England launch their defence of the Ashes in Brisbane.

Not that poor Trescothick has been a lone failure in this match. In batting, bowling and fielding England have been lacklustre, and that is a judgement that only their mums might have imparted. Other observers could have been much more objective. They have been hapless and at worst they have also been unprofessional, not perhaps in their preparation but in the way they have conducted the match.

There are three overriding explanations for what has happened here, the scene of so much that has been uplifting for the English game. First, England had already secured the series with two grand victories in the preceding two Tests, playing the sort of disciplined, aggressive cricket that had culminated in their ensnarement of Australia last summer.

Secondly, with that being so, the whole of England has turned its attention to that day in November (Thursday the 23rd, to be precise) when the campaign to retain the Ashes begins. Thirdly, Pakistan, with one of their triumvirate of incisive fast bowlers, Mohammad Asif, restored, have played excellently.

England appeared to realise yesterday that they had been off the pace of the game. Perhaps they had been stung by the strength of the criticism, perhaps they felt they owed something to themselves, their captain, Andrew Strauss, and another capacity crowd.

Nobody had been derided more than the leader of the England attack, Stephen Harmison. Nobody more embodied the determination to provide some sort of riposte to the barbs. Maybe he needed to do so, since there have been unkind suggestions that the evidence was doing nothing to refute that Harmison was below par because of the absence of his friend Andrew Flintoff.

While that ignores his wonderful endeavours at Old Trafford his bowling since has been decidedly ropey. There are hints that Harmison has been struggling for fitness and he has been spotted grimacing and rubbing his side. Yesterday he bowled through the pain. He was unchanged for 15 overs from the Pavilion End, though the spell was broken by two breaks for rain and lunch. The third of these mini-bursts was the most effective, consisting of 9.1 overs and two wickets for 21.

Inzamam-ul-Haq went, failing to control a viciously lifting delivery from short of a length. That was Harmison's first wicket for 281 balls which had cost 236 runs. He had to wait only three more overs for his next wicket when Kamran Akmal, out of sorts all series, edged a drive played away from his body to third slip.

With Matthew Hoggard generating away-swing at the Vauxhall End and accounting for an oddly subdued Mohammad Yousuf, whose batting of the previous day was replaced by something much more austere, the possibility was raised briefly that England might atone for earlier misdemeanours by hurrying the Pakistan first innings to its demise. But if the bowling had begun to hit its straps, the fielding remained poor.

There were two more dropped catches to add to the possible five shelled earlier. Hoggard, who had been the victim, was now the culprit, returning a disfavour to Monty Panesar. Ian Bell missed a much less straightforward opportunity high and left at gully.

Two thoughts occurred as they went begging. The first was that England would function like that in the winter at their peril. The second was that they put down plenty against Australia last summer and still won the Ashes.

Pakistan's early tail wagged with some aplomb, marshalled by Faisal Iqbal. But Harmison returned for his 16th over of the day to finish the innings. Danish Kaneria was caught in bizarre fashion by Trescothick at slip. The ball spilled from his hands, but as he and it fell to the floor he kept the ball in the air with his thigh and gathered it to his stomach. Mohammad Asif registered a record-equalling fifth consecutive Test duck.

Harmison had 4 for 125, figures that may not reflect how inexpertly he had bowled for much of the innings. This was a fast bowler attempting to remind Australia of his existence.

NPOWER TEST SCOREBOARD

Pakistan won toss

England - First Innings 173

(Umar Gul 4-46, Mohammad Asif 4-56)

Pakistan - First Innings (Overnight 336-3)

Mohammad Yousuf c Read b Hoggard 128

(Thin edge to outswinger reaching forward; 350 min, 236 balls, 18 fours)

*Inzamam-ul-Haq c Strauss b Harmison 31

(Fended back-of-a-length ball to second slip; 77 min, 62 balls, 5 fours)

Faisal Iqbal not out 58

(141 min, 90 balls, 8 fours)

ÝKamran Akmal c Collingwood b Harmison 15

(Loose drive to third slip; 17 min, 13 balls, 3 fours)

Shahid Nazir c Hoggard b Mahmood 17

(Drove to wide mid-on; 55 min, 31 balls, 2 fours, 1 six)

Umar Gul lbw b Panesar 13

(Playing half forward, beaten by turning ball; 25 min, 26 balls, 1 four, 1 six)

Danish Kaneria c Trescothick b Harmison 15

(Cross-batted slash to first slip; 32 min, 24 balls, 1 four)

Mohammad Asif c Cook b Harmison 0

(Fended off short ball to short leg; 2 min, 2 balls)

Extras (b4, lb9, w11, nb8) 32

Total (560 min, 129.5 overs) 504

Fall contd: 4-379 (Inzamam-ul-Haq), 5-381 (Mohammad Yousuf), 6-398 (Kamran Akmal), 7-444 (Shahid Nazir), 8-475 (Umar Gul), 8-504 (Danish Kaneria), 10-504 (Mohammad Asif).

Bowling: Hoggard 34-2-124-3 (nb6) (4-0-13-0 13-2-53-1 4-0-11-0 12-0-42-2 1-0-5-0), Harmison 30.5-6-125-4 (nb1, w11) (6-1-38-0 3-1-7-0 5-0-24-0 16-4-50-2 0.5-0-6-2), Mahmood 27-3-101-2 (nb1) (6-1-24-1 4-1-20-0 5-0-15-0 3-0-15-0 2-1-1-0 7-0-26-1), Panesar 30-6-103-1 (1-0-3-0 15-3-49-0 3-0-8-0 11-3-43-1), Collingwood 6-0-29-0 (4-0-12-0 2-0-17-0), Pietersen 2-0-9-0 (one spell).

Progress: Third day (min 98 overs): Rain stopped play 11.20am-12.29pm 348-3 (Mohammad Yousuf 117, Inzamam-ul-Haq 11) 87 overs. 350 in 376 min, 87.4 overs. RSP 12.56-1.35pm (lunch taken) 369-3 (Mohammad Yousuf 121, Inzamam-ul-Haq 27) 93.5 overs. RSP 1.45-2.44pm 374-3 (Mohammad Yousuf 122, Inzamam-ul-Haq 30) 96 overs. 400 in 455 min, 105.2 overs. Tea 444-7 (Faisal Iqbal 30) 115.5 overs. 450 in 503 min, 117.2 overs. 500 in 555 min, 129.1 overs. Innings closed 5.32pm.

Faisal Iqbal 50: 116 min, 79 balls, 7 fours.

England - Second Innings

M E Trescothick c Kamran Akmal b Mohammad Asif 4

(Edged good-length ball behind; 12 min, 10 balls, 1 four)

*A J Strauss not out 37

(82 min, 54 balls, 7 fours)

A N Cook not out 33

(69 min, 46 balls, 4 fours)

Extras (lb2, nb2) 4

Total (for 1, 82 min, 18 overs) 78

Fall: 1-8 (Trescothick).

To bat: K P Pietersen, P D Collingwood, I R Bell, ÝC M W Read, S I Mahmood, M J Hoggard, S J Harmison, M S Panesar.

Bowling: Mohammad Asif 9-1-40-1 (nb2) (6-1-28-1 3-0-12-0), Umar Gul 5-0-25-0, Mohammad Hafeez 1-1-0-0, Danish Kaneria 3-0-11-0 (one spell each).

Progress: Third day: 50 in 52 min, 11 overs. Bad light stopped play 7.07pm.

Umpires: B R Doctrove (WI) and D B Hair (Aus).

Third Umpire: P J Hartley. Match Referee: M J Procter (SA).

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