Unlucky Pakistan refrain from complaints

Published: Wednesday, August 9, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Leeds:Pakistan did not take the easy option after losing the third Test and the four-match series against England at Headingley yesterday.

It would have been easy, understandable even, for them to leave the ground cursing the names of umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove. Perhaps they did but, if so, it was done in private and that was to their credit.

There is no doubt that the touring side, in losing by 167 runs after scoring 538 in their first innings at Headingley, did not get the rub of the green.

First they lost the toss, which never helps. Then they 'dismissed' Kevin Pietersen for two in the first innings, a delivery from fast bowler Shahid Nazir clipping the edge of the bat as well as Pietersen's back leg on the way to the wicketkeeper, only for Hair to keep his finger down.

Pietersen went on to add 133 more runs before he was finally dismissed as the top-scorer in the home side's agenda-setting first innings of 515.

Doctrove proved as hesitant in the second innings when Andrew Strauss survived a huge appeal for lbw against leg spinner Danish Kaneria. The England captain had been on 29 at that stage. He continued all the way to 116, the highest second-innings score by any batsman on either side.

''If we had got him out, or caught Marcus Trescothick early on, and kept their stand down to 20 as we should have done, we might well have been chasing 180,'' conceded Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer. ''Unfortunately it didn't happen that way.'' There were a couple of other such decisions, against Alastair Cook in the first innings and Paul Collingwood in the second, which went against the visitors, although those proved far less costly. Almost as galling, they took two other wickets during the match off no-balls.

Woolmer remained steadfastly gracious in defeat.

''England played very well,'' he said. ''They played better than us throughout the series, it's as simple as that. We made too many mistakes. We never quite got it together as a team.'' And Woolmer was right. To an extent, you make your own luck.

Pakistan failed to do that, just as they have done earlier in the series.

In the drawn first Test, they dropped half a dozen chances.

At Headingley they dropped Pietersen, although he had got to three figures by then, and, much more pertinently, gave the out-of-form Trescothick two huge let-offs early in his second innings.

The result? He put on a decisive 158 for the first wicket with Strauss in a stand, which went a long way to win the game.

Pakistan were also hamstrung by four run-outs.

''Run-outs have been a perennial problem for Pakistan,'' Woolmer added ruefully. ''You don't need that in Test cricket.''

Mohammad Yousuf's departure for eight in the second innings, after he had made 192 in the first, was a pivotal moment. For Woolmer, indeed, it was the pivotal moment. England, in contrast, played close to the top of their game. There was one expensive miss. Paul Collingwood, diving in the slips, dropped Yousuf when he was still in single figures on his first visit but, for the most part, they snaffled their chances with confidence.

Their fielding, which has not always been a strength, was of the highest calibre. Fittingly, it was Collingwood who ran out Yousuf on the final morning to set England on course for victory.

''Generally you don't get four run-outs in a Test match but the great thing for us was that we had four opportunities and took them all, three of them with direct hits,'' he said.

''There's a lot of work on the practice ground that goes into that. We have been really targeting that aspect of our play over the last few weeks.'' The point will not be lost on Woolmer.

It was the great South African golfer Gary Player who, when told that he was lucky, agreed while adding: ''It's funny but the more I practise, the better I get.'' Yousuf and Younis Khan have been Pakistan's leading lights in the series. Yousuf made a double century in the first Test to keep his side afloat, while the pair teamed up at Headingley to put on 363 runs for the third wicket, a Pakistan record against England for any wicket.

Practice, it seems, tends to make the pair as close to perfect as you can get.

As Woolmer put it: ''They're two of the best players I have worked with in my career. They're also probably two of the hardest-working players in the side. Which says something.''

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