England v Pakistan - 2nd Test Day Three - England win by an innings and 55 runs

It is about time the ICC intervenes to put an end to the even-number series between Test-playing nations. The present two-Test rubber between England-Pakistan has finished with 1-1, with players, media and the cricket lovers all around the world, clearly thinking of it as an unfinished business. A series played in good spirit, but no outright result.

England v Pakistan

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 With a lead of 189 runs muddling their mind-set and technique, Pakistan were bowled out for just 134 in 46 overs, to lose by an innings and 55 runs, inside three days. With no decent partnership to write about, it was not an impressive batting display, given the Headingley pitch held no demons. Debutante, Usman Salah-ud-din, Pakistan Test player No. 232, did apply himself for a dogged 33 off 102 balls, before he too succumbed to the pressure and got out to an unwarranted heave off off-spinner Dom Bess, who bowled beautifully to also account for top-scorer Imam-ul-Haq (34). Sam Curran, a promising left-arm paceman, on his 20th birthday, had the honour of being part of the victorious England team.

In no time with awful shot selection initially by both Azhar Ali and Haris Sohail, out to a stunning one-handed catch to his left at mid-off by Dom Bess, Pakistan at lunch were reeling at 48-3, still 141 adrift and with a fair chance of the game not going into the 4th day. So it proved with Pakistan turning from wonderful to woeful, within a week’s time. A pattern, mind you not as uncommon as one is lead to believe with a number of other Test-playing nations as well. Moreover the modern day Test cricket pattern of a team on top generally stays on top, was shown by Pakistan at Lord’s and now England at Leeds.

Earlier Jos Buttler, who had been dropped yesterday at 4, did a serious damage to Pakistan’s prospects of staying in the game. After a relatively quite time at the crease when the situation demanded him to do so, he quickly changed the tempo of the game on the third morning. Bringing up his fifty with a top-edged six over fine-leg, off Mohammad Abbas, the second phase of his brilliant 80 off 101 balls was played in an IPL mode, helping England to a match-winning 189-run lead.

Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed, admittedly leading a side, that is clearly in a transitional phase, is not performing at his best with the bat. A free flowing strokeplayer of undoubted merit, his recent batting form is a cause of concern. With the last of his third Test hundred, dating back to November 2014, he is no longer the force he was with the bat.

As a captain he has failed to deliver, after promoting himself to number six. So far he has not justified his promotion and since taking over a, very demanding job, he is averaging a mere 19.77 in the five Test matches. Mind you, he is not the first wicket-keeper to be asked to lead from the front as previously Imtiaz Ahmed (1959), Wasim Bari (1977), Moin Khan (1995) and Rashid Latif (1997) too had the honour to lead Pakistan.. It must be even tougher for Sarfraz, for his charges are mostly inexperienced and moreover he is being asked to captain in all three international formats: Test, ODI and T20.

Mohammed Amir, whose wholehearted approach as a senior paceman in the side was further enhanced when he bowled two overs with a painful shoulder this morning and when taken off by the captain decided to stay on the field. He will get thumbs up all around for his guts.

On a slightly different angle, contrary to his image, Amir does seem to lack confidence, as an individual. It was interesting to note in his interview before play started this morning, he too like virtually all of the present Pakistan players, seem to opt for an interpreter. Now Amir seemed to understand what was being asked from him by the interviewer and his answers started with a word or two of English before he slipped back into Urdu. It is a combination of three elements: lack of exposure to English language at school, lack of confidence and lack of that desire to improve one’s standing at international level.

The point is not raised to pick on Amir in particular but what is amazing is the fact that he has been, including the u-19 tour in 2007, on six different tours of England, on top of a spell at Essex in the county cricket. To make matters worse in the period of 2007-18, Pakistan Cricket Board has employed no less than four foreign coaches in Bob Woolmer, Geoff Lawson, Dave Whatmore and now Micky Arthur, who would naturally be communicating in English. For how long the former players, i.e. Ramiz Raja, Mushtaq Ahmed and Wasim Akram, will continue to the rescue of Pakistan players. The role of Pakistan Cricket Academy (PCA) in Lahore surely must be to groom and polish the youth for them to face the international media with confidence. 

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