England squander their advantage

Pakistan 340; England 200-5: FIRST TEST: Waqar and Wasim strike hard
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One of England's failings in the Test arena has been their inability to string two good days together and drive home an advantage. Yesterday was no exception and, in front of a full house at Lord's on the second day of the first Test, they squandered the healthy position they had found themselves in on Thursday night when they allowed Pakistan's last pair to contribute 50 valuable runs before being reduced to 200 for 5 by the close.

It was a typically restless Pakistan performance, their bowlers always searching and striving for an opening, often to good effect. Wasim Akram, although looking somewhat ineffectual off his short run, kept tinkering with both his bowlers and his fields, in pursuit of an opening.

However, England will claim, with some justification, that they were on the wrong end of two poor umpiring decisions. Nevertheless, Pakistan always looked dangerous, never more so when they sensed uncertainty, and the demolition of Graeme Hick was ruthless cricket at its best.

Despite his recent hundred against Durham, Hick has had an unusually poor county season. As he walked out to face Waqar Younis, just warming to his task, even those who had overdone the lunchtime Pimms could sense the enormous pressure he was under.

With Waqar - fortified by the wicket of Nick Knight - steaming in from the Pavilion End and Mushtaq Ahmed spinning and mixing his deliveries like a manic disc jockey, Hick was kept from settling. Indeed, if anything, Hick looked frozen, psyched into immobility by the expected assault on his upper body from Waqar.

It was an assault that never materialised and, tellingly, Hick's feet were still rooted on leg-stump as a gun-barrel straight yorker ripped out his middle and off stumps, with the Wilkinson sniper speedgun claiming a reading of 82mph.

Hick's body language has never been his forte and the weary swish he made at the ball after it had ricocheted off the stumps looked like the reaction of a man more in need of a sabbatical than a short rest, and his fate as a Test batsman once again appears to rest on a favourable second-innings performance.

Waqar, his hamstring injury clearly at the back of his mind, had taken 2 for 5 in 21 balls. It was by no means a staggering performance, but it crucially kept his team-mates' spirits up just as England's batsmen had briefly threatened to take control.

The England innings, delayed while Rashid Latif and Ata-ur-Rehman added 50 runs for their last wicket, got off to a bad start and the 35 minutes they had before lunch was long enough for them to lose Atherton to a dubious lbw decision. The ball from Wasim Akram certainly pitched on the stumps but, with the Lord's slope against it, the ball did not come back enough to hit off-stump.

It was the first of two poor umpiring decisions but, if umpire Peter Willey heads the current controversy count 2-1, the leg before umpire Steve Bucknor upheld against Nick Knight was nothing short of an aberration. Apart from the batsman getting in a long stride, the ball was passing comfortably wide of off-stump, Waqar having moved the ball down the slope away from the left-hander.

Knight, disconsolate, trudged off, his score reading 49. Fifteen balls earlier, having edged Mushtaq through Aamir Sohail's grasping hands at slip, he had already begun to raise his bat to the applause acknowledging his fifty.

However, he quickly stopped after seeing umpire Willey signalling leg- byes. It was a decision the umpire curiously reversed at tea time, something he could not have done had Aamir Sohail held the catch and Knight been initially given not out.

By the end of play the decision, although challenged, was still standing, making Knight the only player to have made a Test fifty sitting in a dressing- room wearing a jockstrap and sipping a cup of tea.

After his enforced absence from the team, Knight returned to his opening role in confident mood. He was especially positive against Mushtaq and he took successive fours off the leg-spinner, cutting the googly and clipping an overpitched leg-spinner neatly through mid-wicket.

Two seasons ago, Knight sought the advice of Jimmy Adams, the left-handed West Indies batsman then playing for Nottinghamshire. Soon to embark on an England A tour to India, Knight had noticed Adams' prolific scoring in India and asked for some tips. Whatever they were, they have paid dividends and Knight rarely looked troubled by the spinner.

Apart from a fluent cameo of 39 from Alec Stewart, who was plumb lbw padding up to Mushtaq's googly, it was the other left-hander, Graham Thorpe, who probably coped best with Pakistan's assault and, in concert with Mark Ealham, the pair added 64 for the fifth wicket before the Kent man parried at a ball from Ata-ur-Rehman that bounced and seamed up the slope.

Crouching low to combat the yorker, Thorpe also drove and pulled with great control. Unbeaten on 43, England will need much more of his solid strokeplay if they are to prevent Pakistan gaining a significant first- innings advantage.

Umpire's decision not final, County cricket, page 24

Lord's scoreboard

Pakistan won toss

PAKISTAN - First Innings

Overnight: 290 for 9

Rashid Latif c Hick b Salisbury 45

140 min, 111 balls, 4 fours

Ata-ur-Rehman not out 10

76 min, 37 balls, 2 fours

Extras (b3, lb5, nb3) 11

Total (108.2 overs) 340

Bowling: Cork 28-6-100-2 (nb4) (8-3-25-1, 3-0-26-0, 8-0-21-1, 2-0-3-0, 7-3-25-0); Brown 17-2-78-1 (5-1-23-1, 4-0-16-0, 7-1-30-0, 1-0-9-0); Mullally 24-8-44-3 (nb1) (7-3-12-0, 6-2-14-0, 11-3-18-3); Salisbury 12.2-1-42-1 (4-0-18-0, 5-1-17-0, 1-0-1-0, 2.2-0-6-1); Ealham 21-4-42-1 (nb1) (11-3- 24-0, 6-0-14-1, 4-1-4-0); Hick 6-0-26-1 (3-0-10-1, 3-0-16-0).

ENGLAND - First Innings

N V Knight lbw b Waqar Younis 51

139 min, 107 balls, 7 fours

*M A Atherton lbw b Wasim Akram 12

21 min, 8 balls, 2 fours

A J Stewart lbw b Mushtaq Ahmed 39

122 min, 102 balls, 6 fours

G P Thorpe not out 43

143 min, 93 balls, 4 fours

G A Hick b Waqar Younis 4

21 min, 20 balls

M A Ealham c Rashid b Ata-ur-Rehman 25

80 min, 79 balls, 3 fours

R C Russell not out 4

32 min, 19 balls

Extras (b7, lb13, w1, nb1) 22

Total (for 5, 71 overs, 284 min) 200

Fall: 1-27 (Atherton), 2-107 (Knight), 3-107 (Stewart), 4-116 (Hick), 5-180 (Ealham).

To bat: D G Cork, I D K Salisbury, A D Mullally, S J E Brown.

Bowling: Wasim Akram 16-4-34-1 (11-3-25-1, 5-1-9-0); Waqar Younis 14- 4-42-2 (nb 1) 3-1-19-0, 8-1-20-2; 3-2-3-0; Mushtaq Ahmed 28-4-68-1 (6- 1-17-0, 18-2,43-1, 4-1-8-0); Ata-ur-Rehman 10-1-33-1 (nb 1, w 1) 7-1-20- 0, 3-0-13-1); Aamir Sohail 3-1-3-0.

Progress: Second day: Lunch 32 for 1 (Knight 15, Stewart 4 (8 overs). 50: 48 min (12.1 overs); 100: 120 min (31.3 overs). Tea: 112 for 3 (Thorpe 1, Hick 3) (39 overs). 150: 203 min (50.4 overs). 200: 276 min (69.1 overs).

Knight's 50: 127 min, 100 balls, seven fours

Umpires: S A Bucknor and P Willey.