A gripping day in which to start the winter series against Pakistan – and an excellent, fighting day by England, one which they must surely be delighted with.
The pitch was always expected to be flat, but not as lifeless as it turned out to be, so Inzamam’s decision to bat first was predictable and justified. Both openers got off to reasonably comfortable starts, with few alarms, until Flintoff trapped Shoaib Malik on the crease. Plumb. Malik had been playing sensibly, but his partner – with a surname to make Sun editors salivate with glee – Salman Butt showed exactly how to bat on this pitch. I’m sure the selectors must have been pleased with the manner of his innings; it was well crafted, or grafted as Geoffrey would say, the only blemish being his departure for a solid (and, perhaps, career-enhancing) 74.
Steve Harmison opened the attack with Matthew Hoggard, but neither threatened greatly – affected, perhaps, by the thought of bowling all day, in intense heat on an ironing board. Harmison eventually woke up to his task, and bowled with great intelligence. After the disaster tour of South Africa, I’m sure I’m not the only one with a keen eye on how well Harmo performs this time round. Although initially tame, it was his first over after tea which sparked the fire within; Younis Khan was trapped in front with the first ball of the final session, followed by Hasan Raza in the sixth (having been unsettled by a bouncer two ball previously).
Shaun Udal outbowled Ashley Giles quite convincingly, by bowling to his limitations and using a lot of nous and clever changes of pace. Giles, on the other hand, was ineffectual at best – although latterly he did improve his length (which simply must be full on these pitches, for all bowlers – but not that full Gilo!). Udal’s first Test wicket was a fair slice of luck – Salman Butt flashed, ball rebounded off the forehead of a dumfounded and concussed Marcus Trescothick, and Geraint Jones reacted quickly to take a very good catch. I haven’t said that too often on this blog…
So to take six wickets, having lost the toss, on a benign pitch is testament to this tough, gritty and resiliant team. And, again, emphasis must be made on team; they work for eachother, as demonstrated by the sharing of wickets around.
A good start by England, who now need to turn the match into their own tomorrow and Monday. See you tomorrow – I’m off to bed.