Friday, August 20, 2010


(c) Getty Images
Mohammed Yousuf, on his return game from his 'temporary' retirement, scored a calm half-century and helped Pakistan score their first 300+ score of this series as they built up a 75-run lead over the hosts England at The Oval.

As it stands now, England have fought back (the score currently reads 151 for 2, with the back-in-nick Alastair Cook unbeaten on 108). But to watch Pakistan's batting yesterday after having watched them collapse on other occasions in this English summer was to know and realise why we love Test cricket so much and why we hold the masters in this game in such high regard!

Yousuf's inclusion was debated heatedly... but I was always of the opinion that Pakistan needed him in their batting unit desperately. The calm he brought to their game yesterday was a treat to watch. Azhar Ali, who had collected two ducks in this series before yesterday, grew more and more confident batting alongside Yousuf.

In the first two Tests, the only member in Pakistan's batting unit whom one could look up to as one having 'character' for Test cricket was their captain Salman Butt. But there is no denying the fact that he is woefully out of form at the moment! This automatically gave England an edge... their bowlers were a lot more confident bowling to this young side with virtually no Test experience. But with the inclusion of Yousuf, the mindset of the English team also changed immediately. The fields became defensive a lot earlier than what we have seen so far this summer. This in turn, also helped Azhar Ali.

At the time when Yousuf was drafted into the side just before the Second Test, a lot of people said that drafting in a 35-year old is a step backwards. What trash! So what is a step forward then? Allowing four boys in their early 20s to make up a middle order in the swing friendly English conditions? And then fault them for nor making big scores?

A year ago, the likes of Azhar Ali, Umar Akmal and Umar Amin had never encountered such conditions in their cricket careers. They had never seen anyone negotiate such conditions... and had no one to guide them on how to do it themselves. So they tried their ultra-aggressive and / or ultra-cautious ways to get through the tricky periods. Invariably, they failed and their failure reflected in the 3-1 scoreline that they have managed so far in England.

This scoreline is a very bad reflection on that bowling unit, which is arguably the best of the three teams that have played Test cricket in England this summer. But the bowlers couldn't do it all on their own. They needed assistance from their batsmen... and now, they have hope that they might get it! Because Mohammed Yousuf is listed in the Pakistan team sheet!

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