Defeat Shows Pakistan Hurt by Batting Problems which Start at the Top
By Vic Marks at Old Trafford


P akistan are not noted for doing things by halves. So perhaps it should not be such a surprise that after their triumph at Lord’s they should lose at Old Trafford by such a monumental margin – 330 runs. The oddity is that there had been no obvious disintegration of their resolve in this match. Yasir Shah kept bustling in throughout, brimful of energy, the only problem being that Chris Woakes was his solitary victim. The pacemen kept striding in earnestly. The batsmen, meanwhile, kept finding ways of getting out.

Perhaps this is where the gulf between the sides is most obvious. England possess two of the best batsmen in the world in Alastair Cook and Joe Root , who contributed an obscene number of runs – 506 between them – in this match; Pakistan, for all the figures that Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq possess, cannot match them.

The problems for Pakistan start at the top of their order.

This is not a new headache. They have not produced an opening partnership above 50 in England since 1996, when Aamir Sohail and Saeed Anwar were together. That was 13 matches ago. Meanwhile Mohammad Hafeez’s score of 42 on Monday was the highest by a Pakistan opener here since 2006, when Hafeez himself mustered 95 at The Oval.

In the middle-order Younis has a phenomenal record – he averages 53 in 106 Tests – but it is impossible to argue that he is still in his pomp. Who has ever moved around the crease as extravagantly as Younis does now? Courtney Walsh, perhaps, which is a comparison that Younis may not welcome.

Like the mighty Misbah, one senses that Younis is fighting the calendar. We are watching both of them steeling themselves against the quicker bowlers; their determination to keep them out is both palpable and admirable. This is not such an easy process as the reflexes decelerate. Then, when Moeen Ali comes on, they cannot resist trying to plunder as many runs as possible. This might help to explain how it is that Younis was caught on the long-on boundary against Moeen with Pakistan 463 runs short of their target.

There was a problem in the field as well at Old Trafford. England played the wrist spin of Yasir so well that Misbah was stranded as captain. He was short of bowlers; he needed more than four; the banning of Hafeez as an off-spinner is hindering the tourists and though he is undergoing more tests it is unlikely that he will be allowed to return to their attack during this series.

So Pakistan head to Birmingham with many more headaches than England. The city can welcome back two of their own, Moeen and Woakes, who contrived 12 wickets between them in Manchester.

The rise of Woakes is especially timely given that Ben Stokes is likely to be sidelined for the rest of the international season after limping off with a calf injury. Woakes was sensational at Lord’s ; here he has backed up that performance, albeit less spectacularly.

Stuff happens to men in form – and there is no doubt that Woakes is in form this season. At Old Trafford he got his 18th wicket of the series, which took him beyond 50 in the season at an average of 16. He also has 500 first-class runs to his name at an average above 50.

For the moment, everything clicks. So when Woakes bowls a wide full toss, Misbah, of all people, contrives to squeeze the ball on to his stumps. Then the dangerous Sarfraz Ahmed receives a short one drifting down the leg side and he gloves the ball to Jonny Bairstow via his jumper. Finally, Mohammad Amir smashes the last ball of the match straight to Stuart Broad at mid-off. Bowling’s a breeze.

Moeen’s little bag of wickets were not achieved quite so effortlessly. Every time he was summoned, Pakistan batsmen were minded to whack the ball out of the ground. He has bowled several high full tosses, which reflected his unease. However, Moeen just about held his nerve. As a consequence, he benefited from the over-ambition of the most experienced of the batsmen.

Amazingly of all the English off-spinners since the war, Moeen has the third best strike-rate – after Jim Laker and Graeme Swann. He may well also possess the worst economy rate. The Pakistan batsmen keep trying to destroy Moeen but enough of them get out to him to make his presence in the team worthwhile. In this match Moeen finished with five for 131, Yasir with one for 266, not quite what we predicted. – The Guardian



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.