Monday 27 March 2017

Pakistan crumble in shadow of England's run mountain

Pakistan batsman Mohammad Hafeez is caught by Gary Ballance (r) off the bowling of Moeen Ali during day four of the 2nd Investec Test match between England and Pakistan at Old Trafford. Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
Pakistan batsman Mohammad Hafeez is caught by Gary Ballance (r) off the bowling of Moeen Ali during day four of the 2nd Investec Test match between England and Pakistan at Old Trafford. Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Derek Pringle

The psychology needed to overcome near impossible tasks, such as the one faced by Pakistan in saving the second Test, is possessed by few men.

That may explain why, without a major contribution from captain Misbah-ul-Haq, their resistance was negligible as England won easily by 330 runs to restore parity with two Tests remaining.

So far Misbah has been the pillar in Pakistan's batting order, holding it together for a hundred at Lord's, where they made enough runs for their bowlers to fashion victory.

Here at Old Trafford, his half-century in the first innings was a lesson to his team-mates in what could be achieved with some application - a lesson unheeded by the time they came to bat again.

But how do you approach a task like the one faced by Pakistan, which was to withstand England's marauding bowling attack for 184 overs, or about 12 hours on a pitch alien to your style of play?

Alastair Cook's decision not to enforce the follow-on the previous day was met with widespread puzzlement on Sunday afternoon, after England had dismissed their opponents for 198.

But he obviously saw something in Pakistan's batsmen from that first innings, which deflated them when faced with big totals. So he batted again until England were 564 runs ahead before re-examining their mettle.

Great rearguards have a special place in cricket and are remembered with great fondness, but only if defeat is avoided. Michael Atherton's 10 hour 43 minute vigil in Johannesburg 20 years ago, to draw a Test against South Africa that looked lost, is every bit as much of the folklore as Ian Botham's Headingley heroics in 1981.

Yet acts like that, where avoiding defeat rather than gaining victory is the prize, are rare.

Why? Because it takes a special powers to summon the massive levels of skill and concentration needed for such long periods while knowing that victory is beyond you.

Pakistan could not do it here on a pitch remarkably similar to the one in Johannesburg all those years ago. And while it would be harsh to say they did not even try to stave off defeat here at Old Trafford, many of their batsmen gave the impression, following their poor first innings, that this was a Test to write off, a bit like a bad debt.

How much this humiliating defeat will affect Pakistan won't be known until the next Test at Edgbaston in eight days' time. They will be hoping for pitch there that is unlike this one, the pace and bounce at Old Trafford proving completely alien to cricketers who play most of their matches on slow, bland, turners in the United Arab Emirates. (© Independent News Service)

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