Magic, miracle, or spirit to win?
In reality and in all honesty it was the will to fight, and overcome the odds that counted in the ultimate analysis, and that may well be the most judicious conclusion. The kind of heroism, performed by a team, playing its notional home series, away from its soil, and yet record a historic 2-0 series win, is something that will not be relished in record books only, but will remain afresh in memory for a long, long time to come. A team, maligned by all kinds of unwanted controversies, and hard-to-believe conspiracies, sent an altogether a different message to the world. It not only got itself recognized as the most potential threat to even the greatest in the game today, but proved beyond any shadow of doubt that plans hatched against it, have all been attempts to deliberately painting it black.
Pakistanís victory by 72 runs in the second cricket Test Saturday, has been and would continue to be unreservedly praised. From the start till the end, the spirit to fight back remained undiminished by a team welded into a cohesive and united unit under Misbahul Haq and coach Mohsin Hasan Khan. It was a match of fluctuating fortunes. Pakistan floundered in batting in the first innings, and although. The spinning trio of Saeed Ajmal, Rehman, and Abdul Hafeez, fought hard to bring their side back into the game, England,managed to register a meaningful 70-run lead and when Pakistan batted for the second time, its main batsmen failed again. It was the 88-run 5th wicket partnership between young Azhar Ali and Asad Shafeeq, that restored some semblance of decency to the total, but the fourth day morning, again belonged to England, whose spinners, left arm Monty Panisar specially, restricted the rivals to a bare 214. A lead of only 145 was just not enough for the much-needed win.
Conditions were all in Englandís favour to square the series and look for the decider in the Third Test at Dubai. But then hoping against hope and the fight to survive and swim to safety, remained true even today, and perhaps will never be an old saying. The wicket had been spinning like anything, and Misbah, talking clue from the turn available to left-arm,Panisar, relied heavily on his own counterpart, Abdur Rehman, who rose to the occasion to oblige his captain for the trust reposed in his armoury.
Rehman bowled with a nagging line and length, and couple of deliveries, especially the one that shocked the first innings hero, Stuart Broad, was a beauty. It went through his defence to disturb the stumps behind him. He stood motionless for a minute, before walking back in sheer dejection. Off spinner Hafeez, now regularly being used as a new ball handler, or the first change bowler, once again brought off the first and very important breakthrough by forcing Alistair Cook to misread him and return a catch which Hafeez accepted diving and rolling on the ground. From there onwards, there was no stopping of the rot, setting in for England. Rehman would cherish this particular contest for his career-best 6 for 25 in only 10.1 overs. Saeed Ajmal from the other end, was equally lethal with his 3 for 22 in 15 overs.
Together, they refreshed the memories of the left-right combination of Iqbal Qasim and Tauseef Ahmad which had recorded yet another memorable Test victory for Pakistan against India at Bangalore. It was a test match for spinners, and although England fast bowlers pair of Anderson and Broad, did share their booty during Pakistan innings, basically, it was Panisar who with his 6 for 62 in 38.2 overs overwhelmed Pakistan. But then Rehman came out with much more flying colours with his 8- wicket haul and was rightly awarded the man of the match. Of the 20 England wickets to fall in this match, 19 went to spinnersóRehman bagging 8, Saeed Ajmal 7, and Hafeez 4. The solitary left over went to Umar Gull. England fell to its lowest ever Test match total of 72 against Pakistan, and found the rather easy chase of 146, elusive from the beginning. They floundered in the end to appear clearly disappointed and dejected. The Pakistanis had completely outclassed them with their spin attack, which can now be treated easily as best in the world.
England batsmen, who had scored enormously during the last two years, appeared totally helpless, and clueless before the Pakistani spinning trio. They must do something to improve their batting. No point in moaning that conditions were not suited to them. That is no excuse. Cricket today is a highly professional game, and demands professionalism from those involved in it.