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Pakistan Gives It To England On Platter

By Orin Davidson

Luck is not always a factor one takes into consideration when assessing a cricket team’s chances in competition.

In Pakistan’s case, as seems to be the norm with teams touring England these days, the luck with umpiring decisions did not bless the touring team, but stayed with the home side instead.

But unexpected sloppy catching was the main reason Pakistan was sent spinning to a Test series defeat that has undone much of the success they achieved in the last 12 months.

The defeat at Headingley against an England team struggling to come to grips with itself after failing to live up to expectations for a full year, has left Pakistan questioning its ability to maintain success when not at full strength.

Of course the results might have been different had a few crucial umpiring mistakes not given England more than the added advantage of playing on familiar grounds and in front of huge crowds rooting motivational support.

Kevin Pieterson who went on to record a huge 135 in England’s first innings that set the stage for them setting Pakistan an unreachable target, was the beneficiary of two decisions that should’ve sent him back to the pavilion well before he had a semblance of a chance to build on the victory platform setting innings.

Then there was Andrew Strauss who survived a leg before appeal long before he compiled England’s second century of the game which helped put the match beyond the Pakistanis, during the second innings.

Even if one thought Pakistan could’ve survived the final day which began with the issue far from conclusive, they had to contend with a wearing last pitch which the England spinner Monty Parnesar made full use of to send them tumbling to defeat.

On top of everything though, Pakistan let down themselves down so badly in the field, there was no way they were going to win anything thing in England while missing three of the leading bowlers and a talented young batsman.

When one stresses the virtues of strong batting and bowling attacks, the fielding abilities of teams are hardly taken into consideration especially in Test competition.

However, from now on, especially with this Pakistan team, fielding has to be factored into the mix whenever they take the field regardless if Shoaib Akhtar, Mohamed Asif or Naved ul-Rana are playing or not.

One understands now why Jonty Rhodes, the South African was hired to conduct a stint with the team before the tour. But from all appearances Pakistan needs a permanent fielding coach instead of one for only two weeks.

From the first day of the first Test when five catches were put down, Pakistan never recovered and it cost them dearly.

That first Test match might have ended in a draw, but when it mattered most, Pakistan continued to spill chances in the second and third games while England gobbled up everything that came their way.

Pakistan’s batting managed to the job for the most part, in the three matches so far, but the requisite support from the other end was not forth coming – meaning the wickets were not had in a manner that should’ve seen the series still tied at this stage instead of them being 2-0 down.

It meant that even if Pakistan could’ve afforded to drop a few chances in the recent past when they were at full strength, they had the bowling firepower powered by Akhtar, Asif and Rana and company to make up for such lapses in the field.

In the Old Trafford second Test, Pakistan had no one to respond to the Steve Harmison’s blitz in the first innings that setup the hounding the touring side got.

No doubt England can be satisfied they have a new potent weapon in orthodox spinner Parnesar, who their coach is already touting as the best finger spinner in the world.

Obviously Duncan Fletcher must be a highly relived man at England’s first series win in over a year after losing to Pakistan on the sub continent, failing in India and against Sri Lanka, but he cannot seriously rate newcomer Parnesar better than everyone else.

At the most he is a promising bowler having proved he can be effective at home and also abroad following his debut in India. A motivating tactic is what his coach’s pronouncements could have amounted to as the young left armer needs the encouragement to continue climbing to the next level, especially with the tough Aussies waiting in the wings Down Under.

As for Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer, his effectiveness has been surprisingly found wanting in light of all of Pakistan’s current woes.

The team’s continued poor catching should never have been allowed to continue unabated through three Tests.

Then again there was captain Inzamam’s forced relegation to number seven in the batting order for the crucial second innings at Headingley. As the country’s former star allrounder Imran Khan rightly said, Inzaman’s decision not to field long enough on the fourth day to avoid relegation, was spineless and undermining of the leadership the team needed at a vital time.

Even if Inzamam was nursing an injury, there were was a pressing need for him to display some more steel by spending time on the field regardless of the discomfort to retain his correct position at the top of the order. Inzamam must know he cannot appear overly soft and expect success for his team. A captain always has to lead from the front and too often Inzamam does not do enough to show physical solidity either when in the field or running between the wickets.

As a result, when the burly captain took the crease, Pakistan’s cause was already lost.

It was a situation where Woolmer should have figured out the advantages and disadvantages and convinced Inzamam of the importance of his presence at the top of the order.

Empowering the coach with the authority to make such strategic decisions means a lot in such situations when teams are at a disadvantage.

In Pakistan’s case they are injury- hampered and such seemingly small issues could make a world of difference.

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