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The Willow Talk by AK: Test 2 Preview: Pakistan vs England

Monday, December 05, 2005

Test 2 Preview: Pakistan vs England

Originally published on December 18, 2005
PakPassion.net

On Wednesday, November 16, Pakistan completed a famous victory by topping England by 22 runs in the first of the three test match series. It was a fascinating come-from-behind victory for a team full of young blood and a craving for fight-backs.

Pakistan will go into the next game leading the series one-up. Pakistani teams haven’t enjoyed many test series leads in the recent past. It is a situation which holds a different kind of pressure - pressure of increased expectations and hope. It is a pressure they will have to withstand in face of what will be a rather desperate England team waiting for payback. This present English unit has made a habit of striking back after defeats just like its opponents, and it will be interesting to see which team’s grit and determination proves to be decisive.

Both squads have certain issues to deal with heading into the second test match in Faisalabad. Micheal Vaughan has been passed fit to play, but in his own words is “a bit of a risk”. He did bat in the nets for the last three mornings of the first test and did a few laps of the Multan Cricket Stadium looking fairly comfortable. He has announced that he will be batting at his usual spot number 3 spot.

The batting has on this tour has been a worrying factor for the Poms. In Multan, stand-in captain Marcus Trescothick and Ian Bell scored more then half of the team’s total runs in the test match. In addition, their spinners, though steady, did not prove to be decisive on a pitch that did have some assistance in it for the spinners. Dropping Shaun Udal, then, in favor of James Anderson could be an option keeping in mind the success their fast bowlers recieved in Multan.

Pakistan’s problems, on the other hand, are a bit more serious. Immediately after the game, seamer Shabbir Ahmed and all-rounder Shoaib Malik were reported for suspect action by the two on-field umpires. Judging by captain Inzamam-ul-Haq’s recent comments, it remains highly doubtful if Shabbir Ahmed will be further risked for the second test match. Malik has a less serious problem, according to the officials, and it seems his position in the team is safe – for now. Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, spearhead of Pakistan’s fast bowling in the 04-05 season, seems certain to grab Shabbir’s spot after being mysteriously dropped from the last test XI.

The hosts made a bit of a blunder by not including dynamite all-rounder Shahid Afridi. Afridi enjoyed what was, arguably, the finest year of his cricketing career. His exclusion can perhaps be accounted to Inzamam’s insecurity over the consistency of the batting lineup. He chose to play Hasan Raza, who was coming back into the national side after spending five years in wilderness. Disappointingly for him, he failed to click under two pressure situations and as a result may find his way out of the side, in favor of an all-rounder who enjoyed a brilliant comeback season in 2004-05.

In the 22 tests played here, Pakistan has won six and lost five, drawing the rest. Seven times the team batting first has won and only four times the team batting second has won. The last time a test match was played in Faisalabad, Pakistan were thumped by the visiting Sri-Lankans by 201 runs. Pitches in Faisalabad have usually been good batting tracks, with some help for the spinners. The track for this test match is expected to be of a similar nature.

Since March 2003, England has won all six test series that they have played. The next test match provides Pakistan with an opportunity to break this remarkable record, which makes it all the more intriguing for players and fans alike.
© Adeel Khan

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