Inzamam's limp resistance

Essex 29-3 Pakistan 303-9 dec
Click to follow
Inzamam-Ul-Haq, batting on one leg while nursing a recurrent knee injury that threatened his World Cup place earlier this year, made a run- a-ball century yesterday to rescue Pakistan from the embarrassment of 172 for seven. The tall, stooping right-hander is the least athletic of the world's great batsmen even when fighting fit, but his current immobility must be a considerable worry just days before the final Test.

While he stood in his crease wielding the long blade, Asif Mujtaba was compiling the bedrock innings that saw Pakistan to a declaration, after early batting that was at best absent-minded. Aamir Sohail, over his wrist injury and in charge while Wasim Akram rests, was bowled by the fourth ball of the match, and in Mark Ilott's next over Ijaz Ahmed played around a straight one. After making a cautious 22, Inzamam left the field, but Salim Malik - out-of-sorts throughout this tour - snicked Ronnie Irani. Saeed Anwar was also soon back in the dressing-room.

Although both sides - as is often the case when no points or trophies are at stake - rested a few key players from this three-day fixture, this cannot have been a start to satisfy the tourists. The pitch was flat, the sky cloudless, the crowd eager, the batting listless. Mujtaba engaged the help of Rashid Latif and promising off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq in repairing the innings, but when they had gone a silly three-ball effort from Waqar Younis - dot, dot, yahoo - left them seven down. Mujtaba was playing a classic restorative innings - watchful, but ready to punish the half-volley. When Irani served up four in succession they all found the boundary, and his generosity with these balls may continue to hinder the establishment of this whole-hearted player at international level.

The situation forced Inzamam's return and he was in no mood to potter around. He greeted John Childs with a six, took the veteran spinner for two more vast straight ones, and drove Ilott over mid-wicket. There were also 14 bounding boundaries - drives, pulls and cuts with minimal footwork but crushing strength. Having charged past his 100 he holed out and hobbled off, with his runner, Saqlain, cheekily waving his bat in gracious salute. Pakistan declared when Mujtaba - at half the speed but just as valuably - also reached three figures.

There was a dramatic coda to the day when a rampant Waqar, with four slips and two gullys, supported by Mohammad Akram and Ata-ur-Rehman, put Pakistan's innings into perspective in a brutal evening session.