The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shoaib a distraction and a burden
- Jaffer’s was probably the best innings I’ve seen an Indian opener play against us
Ramiz at Eden

It was a real privilege to watch Jafferís innings at the Eden on Friday. It was just as disappointing to see a half-fit Shoaib Akhtar in the XI and the Pakistanis make laughing stock of themselves with a flat performance on the field. Thatís the first day of the second Test in a nutshell.

Letís dwell on the positives first. Everyone was talking about the quality of Jafferís unbeaten 192, it was quite outstanding. What many missed out was the pace of the innings. To come so close to notching up a double hundred on the opening day of a Test is no childís play. His strike rate was an amazing 75, which helped India take substantial control of the match.

Even if they suffer a collapse on the second day, India would still end up in the vicinity of 450 and have enough time to push for victory. It wouldnít have been so rosy for the home team had they managed something like 280 for three instead of 352 for three.

The only way Pakistan can survive is to bat for very long periods in both innings. And that wonít be a straightforward task, even if the pitch remains flat sans any venom or bite over the next few days. The huge total that would be staring at them would put a lot of pressure on the Pakistan batsmen.

Coming back to Jaffer, he killed Pakistani aspirations by dominating Kaneria from the outset. By getting to the pitch of the ball and flicking against the spin, the opener minimised the leggieís effectiveness. His treatment of Kaneria was so Laxman-like.

Jaffer didnít just do it in patches, he lorded over the Pakistan attack throughout the day. This was probably the best innings Iíve seen an Indian opener play against Pakistan.

The only hole in his game, if one can call it that, is the tendency to be a bit lazy while playing across the line. It could land him in trouble against express pace. My advice to him would be to play a bit straighter ó more in the mid-on to mid-wicket region than mid-wicket and square leg.

Jafferís effort ensured that the batsmen at the other end could play their natural game. Dravid was his usual solid self before getting a poor decision. Sachin played another classy knock till he misread Kaneriaís wrong íun. The number of times heís getting out within striking distance of three figures is not funny. I hope itís not getting to be a mental block, because the more he thinks about it, the worse it will get.

I donít want to take anything away from Jaffer and Sachinís quality of strokeplay, but the fact remains that the Pakistan attack looked very ordinary.

To begin with, Pakistan took a big gamble with Shoaib ó perhaps hoping that Younis will win the toss and opt for first strike, thus giving the pace spearhead another day to rest and regain fitness. Thatís not the way to approach a Test and no wonder the move backfired.

I would have played Yasir Arafat ó so what he reached the ground minutes before the match started ó or even left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman in Shoaibís place, because the fast bowler was more a distraction and a burden than an advantage.

Distraction because captain Younis had to nurse him all day when he should have been focusing on other things and burden owing to the fact that he was unfit.

I would even question the wisdom of playing Faisal Iqbal. They should have taken an extra bowler in Malikís place, knowing that Shoaib would struggle to bowl too many overs.

The standard of fielding didnít help matters. Iíve never seen such a lacklustre and dispirited Pakistan side on the field.

On a day they had to come hard at the opposition, the Pakistanis were pathetic ó not just in one session but in all three. The aggro and the attitude you associate with a Pakistan team facing India were conspicuous by their absence.

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