England thrown off course by spin

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Cricket

reports from Karachi England 249-9 Pakistan 250-3 (Pakistan win by 7 wickets)

The good news is that England did not have a calamitous day. The bad news, however, is that they were beaten at a canter by a Pakistan side who were similarly humbled by South Africa a few days ago. England may slowly be getting their act together, but at this rate they will still be some way down the pecking order when it comes to booking a berth in the final.

This result at least means they know where (Faisalabad), when (next Saturday) and against whom (Sri Lanka) their quarter-final will be. The only uncertainty will be over injuries to Robin Smith and Neil Fairbrother, and the latter's hamstring will be assessed today before a decision is made about replacing him with either Nasser Hussain or Mark Ramprakash.

It is a combination that - given England's form and Sri Lanka's two walkover wins - has looked likely for some time. At least it had until an article in the Dawn newspaper appeared, quoting Pakistan's manager, Intikhab Alam, as saying that Pakistan could throw the England match as well as the one against New Zealand, simply in order to get a home tie. He later denied making any such statement, though rumour has it that a lot of money went on England.

Although recent accusations of misconduct have been levelled at certain members of the Pakistan side, managing to be able to throw a game against this England side, at least convincingly, would be harder than the tasks of Hercules - a view taken by one paper whose headline read: "Only a miracle can stop Pakistan going to India."

If it was an option, they did not take it, and later Pakistan's captain, Wasim Akram, told reporters that "the whole side are ready for any other team", claiming it was far better for confidence levels to beat a strong side in the quarter-finals.

They were certainly ready for England, who were 20 to 30 runs light on a pitch that offered about as much margin for error as a jackpot-winning lottery ticket.

Having dropped Alec Stewart, Michael Atherton, who won the toss, opened alongside Robin Smith, who considering he has played little more cricket on this trip than Ray Illingworth, struck the ball well and often enough to find the boundary nine times.

An early six off Waqar Younis was a reminder how England have missed someone of Smith's power, the ball skimming over square-leg from his swivelling pull shot. Even an injury to his calf - which required the services of a runner - did not seem to curtail his power, though he was out soon after.

Atherton was more circumspect to start with, later opening his shoulders to mow and swat the danger man, Mushtaq Ahmed, to the boundary in a calculated bid to prevent the leg-spinner from settling.

It was a ploy that worked well, particularly as Wasim had started by giving his spinners a six-three off-side field to bowl to, with nobody saving the single on the leg-side. It was an almost impossible field to bowl to and England sped to 134 without loss after 25 overs, a score that merely seemed to strengthen rumours of Pakistan's intentions of throwing the match.

However, Mushtaq's brilliant second spell, soon cut short any such aspirations. Getting the ball to grip the pitch and turn, he took three quick wickets. The last, a perfectly pitched googly, bowling Dermot Reeve through a gate almost as large as the one built by Aurangzeb in Lahore fort.

However, it was the left-arm spin of Aamir Sohail who stopped England's momentum dead after Smith had gone for 75 when he had Graeme Hick neatly stumped by Rashid Latif as he played over a half-volley. The part-time spinner then bowled Atherton for 66 after the England captain made room to cut the arm ball. His team lost three wickets for nine runs in the space of three overs.

It was a set-back that proved irredeemable, despite Graham Thorpe's sensibly constructed 50, and England lost wickets too regularly to be able to launch the usual end of innings onslaught.

If England were going to notch up their first Test-playing scalp of the tournament, they needed to take wickets with the new ball. But instead of succumbing to intended late movement, both openers appeared to see the ball early, and anything slightly off line was smashed away through the off side.

Saeed Anwar, played particularly well as did Ijaz Ahmed at No 3. Both hit the ball hard, nonchalantly taking boundaries if and when they needed them. England's butter fingers spilling four catches, though none it has to be said were regulation.

However, once the crowd sensed it was a formality, it was obvious by the way 32,000 of them kept chanting "Ja-ved, Ja-ved" that all they wanted to do was catch one last glimpse of their favourite son. Sure enough, when Ijaz was out, their wish was granted and out marched the old warhorse to a deafening roar, out to do battle in his sixth World Cup.

He could have been run out for nought had Richard Illingworth's throw hit the stumps, as he and Inzamam-ul-Haq saw Pakistan home. Afterwards he was presented with two cheques, the larger of the two worth six lakh (about pounds 115,000) from the people of Karachi.

Unless everything starts to click into place, England will do well to come away with half as much.

(England won toss)

ENGLAND

R A Smith c Waqar b Salim 75

(114 min, 92 balls, 8 fours, 1 six)

*M A Atherton b Aamir 66

(126 min, 91 balls, 6 fours)

G A Hick st Rashid b Aamir 1

(4 min, 2 balls)

G P Thorpe not out 52

(93 min, 64 balls, 3 fours)

N H Fairbrother c Wasim b Mushtaq 13

(25 min, 21 balls, 1 four)

R C Russell c and b Mushtaq 4

(11 min, 7 balls)

D A Reeve b Mushtaq 3

(10 min, 5 balls)

D G Cork lbw b Waqar 0

(5 min, 2 balls)

D Gough b Wasim 14

(22 min, 15 balls, 1 four)

P J Martin run out (Mushtaq-Rashid) 2

(6 min, 4 balls)

R K Illingworth not out 1

(1 min, 1 ball)

Extras (lb11, w4, nb3) 18

Total (for 9, 213 min, 50 overs) 249

Fall: 1-147 (Smith), 2-151 (Hick), 3-156 (Atherton), 4-194 (Fairbrother), 5-204 (Russell), 6-212 (Reeve), 7-217 (Cork), 8-241 (Gough), 9-247 (Martin).

Bowling: Wasim Akram 7-1-31-1 (w3) (5-1-18-0, 2-0-13-1); Waqar Younis 10-1-45-1 (3-0-16-0, 2-1-7-0, 5-0-22-1); Aqib Javed 7-0-34-0 (nb3) (6- 0-29-0, 1-0-5-0); Mushtaq Ahmed 10-0-53-3 (5-0-39-0, 5-0-14-3); Aamir Sohail 10-0-48-2 (nb1, w1), Salim Malik 6-1-27-1 (one spell each).

Progress: 50: 54 min, 76 balls. 100: 90 min, 126 balls. 150: 119 min, 177 balls. 200: 161 min, 244 balls.

Smith 50: 81 min, 60 balls, 6 fours, 1 six.

Atherton 50: 100 min, 70 balls, 4 fours.

Thorpe 50: 88 min, 62 balls, 3 fours.

PAKISTAN

Aamir Sohail c Thorpe b Illingworth 42

(70 min, 56 balls, 6 fours)

Saeed Anwar c Russell b Cork 71

(124 min, 72 balls, 8 fours)

Ijaz Ahmed c Russell b Cork 70

(112 min, 83 balls, 6 fours)

Inzamam-ul-Haq not out 53

(90 min, 54 balls, 6 fours)

Javed Miandad not out 11

(29 min, 21 balls, 1 four)

Extras (lb1, w2) 3

Total (for 3, 215 min, 47.4 overs) 250

Fall: 1-81 (Aamir Sohail), 2-139 (Saeed Anwar), 3-214 (Ijaz Ahmed).

Did not bat: Salim Malik, *Wasim Akram, Rashid Latif, Mushtaq Ahmed, Waqar Younis, Aqib Javed.

Bowling: Cork 10-0-59-2 (w2) (4-0-19-0, 3-0-14-1, 2-0-15-1, 1-0-11-0); Martin 9-0-45-0 (5-0-23-0, 2-0-15-0, 2-0-7-0); Gough 10-0-45-0 (5-0-25- 0, 5-0-20-0); Illingworth 10-0-46-1 (6-0-29-1, 4-0-17-0); Reeve 6.4-0- 37-0 (4-0-18-0, 2-0-13-0, 0.4-0-6-0); Hick 2-0-17-0 (one spell).

Progress: 50: 46 min, 62 balls. 100: 93 min, 125 balls. 150: 136 min, 183 balls. 200: 178 min, 239 balls. 250: 215 min, 286 balls.

Saeed Anwar 50: 95 min, 54 balls, 6 fours.

Ijaz Ahmed 50: 80 min, 63 balls, 3 fours.

Inzamam-ul-Haq 50: 90 min, 54 balls, 6 fours.

Umpires: B C Cooray (Sri Lanka) and S Venkataragavan (Ind).

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