LONDON, (Reuters) – Captain Shahid Afridi added to the turmoil afflicting Pakistan cricket on Friday by announcing his decision to quit the test arena after his side were beaten within four days by Australia at Lord’s.
Afridi, 30, was persuaded by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to come out of a four-year retirement and lead his country in two tests against Australia followed by four against England.
Now Pakistan must find their sixth captain since 2007 for the England series after Afridi announced he would play his last test at Headingley in Leeds next week. By contrast Australia, who completed a record 13th consecutive win over Pakistan yesterday, have had only four captains in the past 25 years.
Pakistan dispensed bans or fines to half their team after failing to win a game in Australia this year. They are condemned to play all their internationals abroad in the immediate future because of the parlous security situation at home.
Signs that Afridi could not, or would not, come to terms with the demands of test cricket were apparent in the first innings when he hit 31 in 15 minutes before throwing his wicket away.
His second innings was even more irresponsible after Pakistan had made a promising start in their quest for a world-record 440 winning target. Afridi lasted only four balls for two when he was caught on the mid-wicket boundary to give off-spinner Marcus North one of his six wickets. North’s figures of six for 55 were the best ever recorded by an Australian spinner at Lord’s.
“I was not interested in playing test cricket but the cricket board just asked me,” Afridi said. “I think my temperament is not good enough for test cricket.
“I have a side injury, I am struggling with injury so I think that’s it. I will play my last test in Leeds.”
Afridi freely admitted he had set no sort of example for his inexperienced team mates in the absence of accomplished middle-order batsmen Mohammad Yousuf, who has retired for the time being at least, and Younus Khan, who was not selected.
“Test cricket is a different ball game,” he said. “You can say I am not strong enough mentally.
“A captain should be an example for the youngsters but I didn’t show any example so I am not capable of playing test cricket. If I’m playing cricket like this it is better to leave.”
Pakistan retained some hope that they might reach their distant target while vice-captain Salman Butt, Afridi’s probable successor, was at the crease with another left-hander, Umar Amin.
Butt moved to within eight runs of a first test century when Ricky Ponting decided to bring on North for the first time in the match to exploit the rough created by the bowlers outside the duo’s off-stumps. Butt over-balanced trying to reach North’s first ball which pitched outside leg-stump and wicketkeeper Tim Paine, who had an excellent debut with gloves and bat, dived forward to complete the stumping.
“The whole thinking behind it was that with two left-handers there I just wanted to see if he could spin the ball away from them,” said Ponting.
“As it turned out he got a wicket with his first ball and he didn’t look bad from there on. I thought he bowled really well today. His control was very good on a wicket that probably didn’t offer a whole lot of assistance for the spinners.”
North was ably assisted by leg-spinner Steven Smith, who finished with three for 51 in his first test and looks certain to play a big role in the Ashes series in Australia this year.
“I think getting those last few wickets today will do him a world of good,” Ponting said. “He will just start to grow in confidence and start putting more work on the ball.”
Australia first innings 253 (S. Katich 80, M. Hussey 56 not out)
Pakistan first innings 148 (S. Butt 63; S.Watson 5-40)
Australia second innings 334 (Katich 83, B. Hilfenhaus 56 not out)
Pakistan second innings (overnight 114-1)
Imran Farhat c Watson b Smith 24
Salman Butt st Paine b North 92
Azhar Ali c Paine b Hilfenhaus 42
Umar Amin c Katich b North 33
Umar Akmal c Clarke b North 22
Kamran Akmal b Smith 46
Shahid Afridi c Hussey b North 2
Mohammad Aamer c Hussey b North 19
Umar Gul c Ponting b Smith 1
Danish Kaneria c Ponting b North 2
Mohammad Asif not out 1
Extras (b 2, lb 1, nb 2) 5
Total (all out; 91.1 overs) 289
Fall of wickets: 1-50 2-152 3-186 4-216 5-227 6-229 7-283 8-285 9-287
Bowling: Bollinger 12-4-43-0, Hilfenhaus 16-8-37-1 (2nb), Johnson 18-5-74-0, Smith 21-5-51-3, S. Watson 6-0-26-0, M. North 18.1-1-55-6