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Collingwood stars for England
Prem Panicker |
February 22, 2003 21:52 IST
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What you see here is the Manhattan of the first 15 overs of the England innings -- or, to put it differently, the heartbeat of erratic talent.
Statistically, that period of play produced 65 runs for the loss of three wickets. What figures fail to reveal is the drama, the heart-pumping excitement of it all.
Wasim Akram bending the ball around corners in his quest for that 500th wicket; Akthar rushing in to bowl like a vagrant wind and hitting a speed of 161.3 kmph, the fastest ball ever recorded and the first to break the 100mph; Michael Vaughan caught off a no-ball; the ball flying now off the middle, now off the edge of the bat...
The first hour of play, when Pakistan is on the park, is not for the faint of heart.
To rewind: Newlands in Cape Town, venue of the crucial Group A game between England and Pakistan, produced a batting track in contrast to its usual nature. The last three ODIs played at this venue, for instance, have produced an average first innings score of 230 -- with the side batting first winning on seven of those occasions.
Obviously, it is the bowlers who love to call this ground home -- despite the powerful easterly wind that makes running into it hell for the quick men.
Nasser Hussain, neck certifiably less stiff than in recent days, won the toss and opted to bat in the day-nighter -- a no-brainer given that 13 of the 17 D/N games at this venue have resulted in wins for the side batting first.
Pakistan dropped Salim Elahi and brought Saeed Anwar in to lend experience at the top of the order; England made two forced changes when skipper Hussain came in for Ronnie Irani (the latest, in a long line of next-Bothams), while Ashley Giles replaced the injured Ian Blackwell.
Wasim Akram's second over was fuelled by the hunger of a man on the threshold of cricketing Everest -- you can safely say that no contemporary bowler is likely to achieve the 500-wicket landmark Akram had in his sights this afternoon.
Marcus Trescothick was clueless. One ball kicked off length, one darted away like a shy kid in the presence of strangers, another zipped back in and darned near cut the batsman in half. It was vicious stuff -- and it ended with the inevitable wicket when Akram bowled the last ball in the corridor, drawing the batsman forward and finding his edge as the ball darted away off the seam (1 off 11 Trescothick, 7/1 England).
The next over upped the ante further, as Shoaib Akthar blasted a 161.3k delivery down the track. Akram, in the 5th over, produced a lifting delivery that had Michael Vaughan miscuing a hook down the throat of square leg -- off a no ball.
Over number six produced more fun -- Nick Knight this time went for the hook, miscued, and still got a six behind the keeper's back off the top edge. Vaughan then produced a classical square drive for four.
That pretty much set the tempo -- Vaughan top edged off Akthar in the 8th over, then followed up with an exquisite cover drive; and greeted Akram with a perfectly executed pull in the 9th over. Later in that same over, Akram produced a delivery that was good for length, good for line around leg straightening on middle, and good for height -- but not good enough for Umpire Brian Jerling of South Africa.
As against Australia, Younis took Akthar off after 4 overs -- and considering that those overs had produced, besides that land speed record and related controversies (See Story), 28 runs at 7 rpo, who can fault the substitution?
The sheer relief of having seen the last of Akthar brought Knight charging down the track at the Pak captain in his first over -- an intended hit over extra cover however was miscued, off the high part of the bat, to Abdul Razzaq in the softest of dismissals. (Knight 15 off 26, England 45/2 in the 10th).
Knight's ridiculous short was an official declaration, almost, that the silly season had arrived -- shortly thereafter, skipper Nasser Hussain aimed a cut at a short ball too close to the stumps for the shot, got the edge and Rashid Latif dived to pull off a great catch. (Hussain 8 off 9, England 59/3 in 13.3 overs)
Alec Stewart and Michael Vaughan steadied ship with some sensible batting, Vaughan reaching his 5th ODI 50 off 61 balls (7 fours, a strike rate of 83.6); shortly thereafter the two brought up the 50 of the partnership off just 56 balls, and England appeared to have fought back into the game.
This period corresponded to when Australia, led by Ponting, had turned it around against Pakistan -- with Akthar and Akram off, there was a perceptible blunting of the Pakistan bowling, an easing of the early pressure (something for India to keep in mind, come March 1?).
Younis brought Akthar back in the 24th and his presence at the bowling crease produced both pressure, and error -- Vaughan, looking to rock back and blast one square to a ball too close and too quick to control, had the mortification of seeing Younis Khan snaffle a great catch, millimeters off the turf, at point. The batsman might want to award himself a swift kick -- at the time of his dismissal (his third 50-something in four innings), he appeared to have hit a rich vein of form and looked good to put some serious stuffing in a one-day average that read 25.6 before this game. (Vaughan 52 off 64, England 110/4 in 23.2).
Alec Stewart had started in scratchy fashion and was just beginning to settle when he caught the bug -- a straight delivery around middle saw Stewart looking to work it to on, only to play all round it and have his middle stump pegged back (Stewart 30 off 34, 118/5 in the 25th over).
Paul Collingwood, who was one of the few English batsmen to impress in the recent VB series in Australia, and Andy Flintoff (who in the absence of Irani was the only ‘next-Botham' in business) buckled down to the job of batting England out of jail. With the spinners -- and Abdul Razzaq, again unimpressive -- in operation, it seemed as though this pair, at long last, was beginning to display the sense their seniors had run out of, when Saqlain Mushtaq struck.
Earlier in the 35th over, Saqlain had beaten Flintoff with a doosra. Given that, it was rather foolhardy of the batsman to charge down the track two balls later -- Saqlain's doosra beat the flailing bat as Flintoff played for the off break, and Latif pulled off a clean stumping with the batsman some three feet short of his crease. (Flintoff 26 off 38, England 160/6).
An assured Collingwood, and Craig White, stuck to the pattern of fighting back after the loss -- through carelessness more than anything else -- of a wicket. And again, the man in touch went against the run of play. Akram returned to the attack in the 40th over only for White to play a superb extra cover drive; in the very next over, White went on one knee to chip Afridi to the on, and only managed to scoop it to point off the outer edge. (White 15/22, England 194/7 in the 41st over).
Collingwood -- a calm and composed player who has turned into England's locomotive force in the end game -- is a guy you want to keep an eye on. Like most good players in that position, he seems to manage to put runs on the board at speed without looking particularly busy; he also has the knack of keeping his head while everyone else is losing theirs, vide the way he talked Ashley Giles into keeping his baser instincts in check and hanging in there.
Giles, after a talking to from Collingwood, produced the best shot of the day when he picked a slower ball from Akthar in the 46th over and wafted it over the long off boundary with a clean swing of the bat. An over later, an attempt to lift Saqlain over the wide long on region however ended with Afridi, outstanding in the field today, taking a head high catch on a dead run, then using his ballet training (or something) to avoid stepping over the ropes -- a fine example of presence of mind allied to deft footwork. (Giles 17 off 23, 223/8 in 46.3)
In the 48th over, Collingwood got to his 50 (59 deliveries, with 29 singles and 4 twos against 23 dot balls -- a fine example of batting at the death) -- and then cut loose in the next over, swinging a fast, reverse swinging full toss from Akthar over the midwicket boundary for six.
Akram needing a wicket for his 500th, and Collingwood needing runs, duelled in the 50th. Neither won -- and England ended on 246/8; a challenging score on this track.
Pakistan's bowling card was the usual mix of superb bowling and indiscipline -- 7 wides and 5 no balls meant an extra over given away; Akthar's pace raised blood pressure in the stands but the 64 runs he gave away did his team no favors; Razzaq's 38 in 6 underlines the fact that Pak has a problem with its support act.
The target is tough, but not out of reach -- especially given England's bowling, which has struggled even against the minnows. And that sets up a fascinating second session, under lights.
Pakistan innings >>