Pakistan cricket genuinely on top
For a team, treated pariah, with no home of its own, and virtually living out of a suitcase, the clean sweep, brought about by the convincing win in the Third Test, with half an hour and a day to spare was important in more than one way. It saw records tumble, and heroes emerge to challenge even the powerful in the game.
During the last two days(there was no newspaper on Monday), Pakistan not only humbled their formidable rivals, outplaying and outclassing them with bat and ball, but also saw new heroes emerging like Azhar Ali, Asad Shafif, and Wicket-keeper Adnan Akmal who wrote new chapters of glory with their deeds, Abdul Rehman and Saeed Ajmal set new standards in the art of spin bowling their right-left combination. Saeed Ajmal for his 24 wickets in the series, and Abdul Rehman, rightly won the titles of man of the series and man of the match, for they had no rivals to match their performances. They excelled in their art to see some of the giants of English batting, nosedive to their lowest ebb. Ajmal should also be praised for reviving the dying art of spin bowling. English pride on Graeme Swann, narrowly escaped this time from being rubbed in the dust.
When the third dayís play ended on Sunday, the contest looked like being a war of nerves, but Mondayís performance of the Pakistani bowlers, including Umar Gull, who took 4 wickets, was superb. Except for brief interludes, they never allowed the rivals to breath properly, and finally sent them packing for 252 in 92.3 overs. Pakistan won by 71 runs to remind to add two more glorious chapters in history books. They not only registered the first-ever whitewash of the England-Pakistan Test records of 58 years, but also registered historyís second most astounding victory after a lapse of 107 years. For the first time in Test cricket history, South Africa, having skittled out for less than 100(91) in their first innings, had gone on to humble England in 1905-1906 series. This time, England again found itself at the receiving end, after Pakistan, bundled out for a paltry 99 in first knock, showed their rivals down.
A most astonishing parallel was the sudden fall of wickets after tea. Pakistan had lost the last 7 wickets for just 32 runs on Sunday, Monty Panesar claiming his second 5-wicket haul in two Test matches he played during the series, and Pakistan bringing doing almost the same after tea on the fourth day.
England, resuming on the fourth day at 36 for no loss, knew the task was daunting. Still Alistair Cook and skipper Andrew Strauss tried to lift the sideís morale, but Strauss like MIsbah too was wrong every time he asked for review of the lbw decisions. England resistance was restricted to Cook, playing a dogged innings, and Mat Prior, both scoring 49, though the latter remained unbeaten in his crusade to turn tables on a side that had displayed tremendous grit and determinations. The wicket had worn out and patches of rough were evident. Rehman exploited those to some extent, but primarily, it was Englandís inability to handle the spin. Pakistan won the first series in succession, and in the process reminded their rivals of the last white wash they had in the Ashes against Australia in 2006.
True conditions were in Pakistanís favour, yet England had the chance to restore some of their lost pride. But it was not to be. Umar Gull with the second new ball brought a sensational collapse,. The rest were for Ajmal and Rehman to do for the much awaited finish.
A word about Adnan Akmal. True, he dropped couple of catches, the one bouncing out of his gloves that gave second life to Strauss presented a horrifying sign, yet he is smart behind the stumps, moves both ways like Rashid Lateef. Secondly, the glorious knock of 157 from Azhar Ali can not be ignored.
The youngster showed great maturity,calm and composure in planning his innings, and he not only partnered for match winning 216 for the third wicket, he made it clear with his classy knock that he had made his place in the Pakistan team. If he corrects his techniques a bit, he could be an explosive prospect for Pakistan. He has talent to grow in stature. Perhaps he would.