Good times swing with Wasim

Northamptonshire 152 Pakistanis 79-1
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The Independent Online
These are good times to be watching cricket in the Hamptons . The Indians last weekend at Southampton; the Pakistanis this weekend at Northampton. They offer a different side of the game from that so often on display in County cricket. And the difference, as Scott Fitzgerald might have said to Ernest Hemingway had they found themselves watching cricket, is that the visitors have more class.

In the case of Pakistan, mind you, they don't just have class. They also have Wasim Akram, their captain, who yesterday fired a warning shot at England with a mid-afternoon spell that brought five wickets in 40 balls at a cost of 14 runs. It was the culmination of a 20-over stint unbroken only by the lengthy break for rain soon after play began. With two matches against Lancashire this week, in the NatWest on Wednesday and the Benson & Hedges Cup Final on Saturday, Northamptonshire will be thankful that he cannot play for his county.

Batting was never easy against the early pace of the unrelating Akrams, Wasim and Mohammad, but when Wasim began to swing the ball late it looked nigh impossible. Not that the Northamptonshire batsmen helped themselves with the kind of footwork you'd never see from Fred Astaire in diving boots. Five times Wasim hit the pads to umpire Willey's satisfaction, and in all seven dismissals were leg before, a serious indictment of batting technique.

Until the so-called wise men at Lord's are prepared to accept the apparently unacceptable reason why English batsmen can no longer use their feet - they don't need to on covered wickets - not all the working parties in Christendom will sort out the English game.

In 27 overs Northamptonshire lost all 10 wickets for 63 runs, and without the first wicket contribution of 89 from Richard Montgomerie and Alan Fordham their score card makes sorry reading. And the openers, Fordham in particular, always looked fallible. The alternative Akram, reckoned by Imran Khan to be as fast as Waqar Younis, certainly bowled at a sharp pace and beat the bat on numerous occasions. He had to watch Shahid Nazir share the spoils with his captain, but his day will come.

Pakistan's reply began with a blaze of boundaries from Saeed Anwar - three fours and a six in Neil Mallender's first two overs. But a change of bowling undid him and he became a first-ball victim for John Hughes, the day's eighth leg before dismissal. If his 20 was something of a humbling for someone who began this tour with a double- century, a century and a half century, it has given Pakistan's other batsmen the opportunity to show their class.