Wasim wages attack

Kent 262 Pakistan 74-5
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The Independent Online
It was a hot, still day that made it easy to understand why cricket was invented in the first place, and, at the start, Wasim Akram declared that the conditions were just right for the sort of practice Pakistan need before next week's Lord's Test. His bowlers then revealed how much preparation they require by conceding 167 runs off 35 overs before lunch, and Wasim's batsmen proved the point by losing five wickets before the close.

Pakistan played a competent second act in the afternoon, when Wasim fired up his squad with a spell of three wickets for 10 in 32 balls, and Kent lost seven wickets for 95 runs, but the day was not enouraging for the tourists. Having been duffed up by Warwickshire last week, they were ambushed by Kent at Canterbury.

But England should not get too excited, because Pakistan's performance was not as bad as it reads on the scorecard. When Steve Marsh won the toss he said Kent would bat against the best attack in the world. Wasim (rated the world's No 3 by Coopers & Lybrand) opened the bowling, but Pakistan had omitted the No 11, Waqar Younis (he has a strained hamstring), and the No 15, Mushtaq Ahmed (who has already exhibited fine form). This was the shadow version of the world's best attack.

But Wasim must have been disappointed with himself and his colleagues before lunch. He had bowled fiercely, but much too short. The other two seamers - Ata-ur-Rehman and Shahid Nazir - were just as short but not so fierce and went for 91 runs off 15 overs. David Fulton and Trevor Ward each scored 58 flamboyant runs. Ward's last nine scoring shots were boundaries, and Fulton hit a six and eight fours. Both made this celebrated attack look very ordinary indeed.

But with Wasim operating off a shortened run at the Nackington Road End, and a 19-year-old off-spinner, Saqlain Mushtaq, in a long spell at the Pavilion End, it was too good for Kent. Perhaps the evidence that mattered most for Lord's was the brave but often bemused performance of Mark Ealham, batting No 6 for Kent, as he might for England. Ealham scored runs, but the lasting image is of him stretching forward to Wasim and being beaten for pace outside the offstump.

Wasim bowled 13 overs after lunch and the best that can be said for Ealham is that he survived. He celebrated this by hitting Saqlain for two sixes, and eventually scored 57 off 101 balls, but the achievement looks better on the page than it did in the flesh.

Without wishing to sound churlish, Ealham's excellent bowling figures (9-3-22-3) were better than his bowling deserved. But he had the scalps to Ijaz Ahmed, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Asif Mujtaba to boast about. All three will be in Pakistan's Test team. Maybe Ealham's secret is that he only looks ordinary. It is also conceivable that Pakistan flattered to deceive, although dirty tricks of this kind do not appear to be part of Wasim's repertoire.

Before play began he was hiding beneath the long peak of a baseball cap. Like the other Pakistani quicks, he is lean and long-legged, but Wasim looks more mature, less coltish, than the others. As captain, he looks at ease with his team in a way that most of his predecessors have not. The authority Wasim now exhibits is not good news for England.