LONDON, (Reuters) – Pakistan exploited heavy cloud cover and humidity to the full yesterday to seize the advantage over Australia in an old-fashioned English test match in which ball dominated the bat throughout.
Australia lost seven wickets for 58 runs after a second-wicket partnership of 120 between Simon Katich (80) and Michael Clarke (47) and at the close of the opening day of the first test they were struggling at 229 for nine.
They would have been in deep trouble if Katich had been given out lbw for two after the lively young left-armer Mohammad Aamer thundered a ball into his pads straight in front of the stumps.
Katich survived with umpire Ian Gould indicating the ball had brushed his bat. The batsman shared his opinion at the time but told reporters later a slow motion replay showed his bat had hit a pad, not the ball.
The decision review system under which teams can appeal to a third umpire with access to television replays is not being used in the two-test series because Pakistan have declined to pay the costs.
Pakistan are deemed to be the hosts of the match. It is the first time England is staging a test between two foreign teams since the 1912 Triangular series because Pakistan must play all their series abroad due to the security situation at home.
Katich, 34, who has now scored a test half-century in each of his last nine tests starting with the fifth Ashes match at The Oval last year, said the ball had swung all day.
“It was a tough day all round,” he said. “It was humid and overcast and you know the ball is going to swing.”
Katich and Clarke, in contrasting styles, appeared to have swung the match Australia’s way with the score 171 for two at the final ball before the tea interval.
But Mohammad Asif, bowling with the pavilion behind him for the first time after taking the new ball from the Nursery End, took three wickets in seven balls to send the innings into terminal decline. Asif’s pronounced wrist action from an easy, relaxed approach helped the ball move late both ways from a good length and, apart from an erratic spell in the afternoon session when he temporarily lost his direction, he was never mastered.
Pakistan vice-captain Salman Butt said Katich, with his crablike shuffle across the stumps and minimalist backlift, and the free-flowing Clarke showed it was possible to score runs in different ways on a good pitch.
However, Pakistan have taken the field without their three most accomplished middle-order batsmen of recent years. Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf have both retired while Younus Khan was not selected and the Australian fast bowlers will relish the chance to show they can create similar problems for a batting line-up containing two debutants in Azhar Ali and Umar Amin.
Ricky Ponting (26) overtook Brian Lara as the second highest test run scorer behind Sachin Tendulkar before he was caught at short-leg off Aamer. The bowler brushed against the Australian captain as he rushed to celebrate with his team mates but both teams played down the incident and an England and Wales Cricket Board spokesman said no action would be taken.
S. Watson b Mohammad Aamer 4
S. Katich c Kamran Akmal b Mohammad Asif 80
R. Ponting c Umar Amin b Aamer 26
M. Clarke lbw b Asif 47
M. Hussey not out 39
M. North b Asif 0
T. Paine c Kamran Akmal b Umar Gul 7
S. Smith lbw b Danish Kaneria 1
M. Johnson b Kaneria 3
B. Hilfenhaus b Aamer 1
D. Bollinger not out 0
Extras (b 10, lb 2, w 1, nb 8) 21
Total (9 wickets; 70 overs) 229
Fall of wickets: 1-8 2-51 3-171 4-174 5-174 6-206 7-208 8-213 9-222
Bowling: Mohammad Aamer 18-2-66-3 (w-1), Mohammad Asif 17-5-53-3, Umar Gul 14-3-24-1 (nb-7), Shahid Afridi 3-0-25-0, Danish Kaneria 18-7-49-2 (nb-1)
Pakistan: Imran Farhat, Salman Butt, Azhar Ali, Umar Amin, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi (captain), Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Aamer, Umar Gul, Danish Kaneria, Mohammad Asif.