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England on the road to victory

Ted Corbett

  • Flintoff Option — simple and effective cure
  • Inzamam scores fifty in second essay too
  • Trescothick gets out cheaply

    MULTAN: England has discovered a simple cure-all for its problems. It is called the `Flintoff Option' and consists of putting the giant all-rounder in place to fill any gaps that occur in its armour. In the first innings of this first Test Flintoff bowled a fifth of the overs and returned four for 68; on Monday he took the new ball; and on Tuesday he came on with the second new ball and opened the way for Pakistan to be bowled out for 341, leaving England to make 198 for victory.

    Add to those bowling feats his 45 in a stand of 97 with Marcus Trescothick on Monday and you see the likeness to Ian Botham, Keith Miller, Gary Sobers and all the other men of bat and ball. In truth he ought to head for a telephone kiosk whenever England is in peril. I can almost see the England and Wales Cricket Board publicity geeks working on that idea.

    Boycott's words

    I prefer to put forward the words of Geoff Boycott. "I am not sure if he is the best fast bowler in the world at the moment but he has been the best England bowler for two or three years," said the great sage.

    "I cannot remember him bowling a bad spell." That is a remarkable tribute from a cricketer of another generation and one noted for speaking the truth without caring who he offends.

    For a long time it looked as if Inzamam-ul-Haq and the new opening batsman Salman Butt would bat England out of the game. Once Flintoff accounted for Mohd. Sami, the Pakistan skipper played with the refined dignity he had shown in the first innings and Butt, whose name will delight the sub-editors of the British tabloids, dug in to bring delight to coach Bob Woolmer who has been looking for a solid opening batsman since he took the job.

    By lunch Inzamam had reached his second fifty of the match and Butt was 99 (with Inzamam whispering in his ear that he should not try too desperately to get a century and that there was plenty of time).

    Change of tempo

    After lunch there was a rapid change of tempo. Twice in the first over there were run out appeals. The first only proved that umpire Billy Bowden had switched off for a moment since Inzamam was clearly home but the second raised serious questions.

    Paul Collingwood, England's sharpest fielder, sent a long throw to the top of the stumps and Geraint Jones knocked off the bails. Simon Taufel referred it to the third umpire, one Azad Rauf, 49, a former first class batsman rapidly making his way up the Test and one-day ladder. I find it difficult to decide why he failed to give Butt out. The TV replays showed the wicket broken and Butt's bat still on the line.

    Out ought to have been the verdict but Butt was allowed to bat on, to take his second century to 122 and to complete a stand of 135 for the fourth wicket before Inzamam was leg-before to Hoggard with the second delivery of the new ball.

    In the next nine overs Mohammad Yousuf, recovering from a shoulder injury, Hasan Raza, adding one to his first innings nought, and Butt were also out; four wickets fell for the addition of just 29 and England was back in the game against a side with the weakest tail I can remember.

    At tea, Pakistan was 164 in front with three wickets standing. Shoaib Akhtar hit a six off Giles but when the brave Kamran Akmal gave Kevin Pietersen his first catch in Tests — after six dropped chances — England was set just 198 to win.

    England showed yet another sign of impending greatness by sticking to the task in front of it with astonishing determination. Flintoff, who had a match return of eight for 156, epitomises the spirit of New England, which has now such a reputation — after ten series successes in the five years since it last toured Pakistan — that teams fear its stars and its hidden depths.

    England lost Marcus Trescothick for five, Bell hit a six behind the wicketkeeper, and almost caused a run out in the same over. He and Andrew Strauss took the score to 24 with another 174 still needed. And if things go badly wrong, there is always Flintoff to come to the rescue.

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