England deflated by Ijaz injection

SECOND TEST: Pakistani's fluent century overcomes Atherton's long- overdue success with the toss
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A masterfully fluent 141 by Ijaz Ahmed has given Pakistan the edge in this second Cornhill Test match. More importantly, it exorcised the Heading- ley demons, allowing Pakistan to end the day on 281 for 6, a task made easier by England's bowlers, whose early waywardness cost the home side the advantage their captain had sought after winning the toss.

It was a brilliant innings by Ijaz, not only for its crisp attacking strokes, but for the confidence it clearly gave his team-mates, shocked by Saeed Anwar's early departure in the fourth over of the morning.

Such messages are important. Four years ago, the pitch's fickle reputation accounted for more of Pakistan's wickets than did the actual movement. Yesterday Ijaz put that reputation, as well as those of England's seam bowlers, through the shredder, recording the highest individual score between the two countries at this venue.

Now 27, this was Ijaz's fifth hundred in 29 Tests, three of them coming in his last four Tests. His severity on anything slightly short was breathtaking and savage in its execution, although his soft hands, riding the bouncing ball in defence, were equally impressive. His century, scored off only 128 balls, was fast for any form of cricket and, but for England's profligacy with the ball, would have been one of the great Test innings.

It was clearly not in Atherton's script. However, there is an old adage in these parts - "When blue skies abound, it don't seam around" - and although there was early bounce, particularly for Andy Caddick, a day of mainly watery sunshine put paid to the extravagant sideways movement England had hoped for.

There are moments in any series when a captain needs things to go his way. Having lost every toss this summer, Michael Atherton at last won it; though not the one that preceded it for choice of ball, which again went Pakistan's way. Asking a side to bat first is a bold move in Test cricket, and is normally backed up by some equally gung-ho tactics on the field.

Defence, therefore, did not come easily to Atherton, whose bowlers, certainly until tea, looked as if they were bowling with a soft orange and not a Reader ball. The combination of an attacking field and bowling far too short to sustain it gifted Pakistan easy runs. The predatory Ijaz took 22 off two wayward overs by Chris Lewis, who looked far from match-fit.

This was clearly not how England had envisaged things going 24 hours earlier, when the pitch was still under cover. By putting them in and dispatching Ian Salisbury and Ronnie Irani back to their counties, Michael Atherton was beginning to believe his own kidology.

In truth, the pitch was neither as well grassed nor as damp as predicted, and the first three Pakistan wickets to fall were due to unforced errors by the batsmen, with Saeed the first to go as he thrashed a wide ball off Alan Mullally to Atherton in the gully. It was a sharp chance and one the England captain enjoyed taking, but if it gave England ideas that Pakistan were there for the toppling, they were soon dispelled. It was not until the stroke of lunch that they struck again, when Caddick had Shadab Kabir lbw, tentatively defending, and perhaps too aware of his predicament of having batted through the first session.

The after-lunch prospect of Inzamam-ul-Haq, the hero of Lord's joining Ijaz - now on 58 - was one that any cricket follower would have salivated over, irrespective of creed or country. However, Inzamam looking strangely immobile, became Atherton's second victim in the gully after slicing an airy drive off Mullally.

With the score at 103 for 3, England had fortuitously put themselves back into the game. Unfortunately, England's bowlers could not respond. Cork, having been brought on second change - an indignity the bowler has probably not suffered for some time - looked particularly lacklustre, coming for most of the time off a short run. Bowling from the Kirkstall Lane End, which Cork did, can be a difficult task. The downhill slope is deceptive and particularly aggravating to bowlers like Cork, who are forced to rein back from attacking the crease. Even so, Cork is finding wickets far more difficult to come by than this time last year.

Before tea, his efforts had been muted, his brilliant running catch at long leg being in vain after the umpire Steve Bucknor had called no-ball. It was only in the last session, when he went back to his long run, that he began to ruffle feathers, though his dismissal of Ijaz, to a wide slower ball, was far less satisfying than the beauty that clipped Salim Malik's off-stump, 20 minutes later.

Salim, who was undefeated in both innings in the Test here four years ago, made an admirable foil for Ijaz as the pair added 130 for the fourth wicket. But if Ijaz remained uncowed throughout his innings - pulling Mullally for a massive six over midwicket to bring up his highest Test score - Salim bided his time, grafting his way to 55, and his highest score of the summer.

Only Caddick's strike with the second new ball, when he removed Wasim Akram, tarnished Pakistan's day. Wasim has yet to fire in this series, and yet his contributions to this side have been immeasurable, for he alone has got them to play as a team - a condition England will find hard to overcome.

Derek Hodgson,

Henry Blofeld, page 22