British media already searching for chink in Saeed’s armour
FOR Pakistan it was an eventful first day in the Test in which off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, true to his recent form, tied England batsmen into knots by bowling them out under 200, picking up in the process seven wickets which is also his career best and provide Pakistan with the initiative to take a firm grip on the match.
What is most important now for Pakistan is to make sure that their batsmen display as much discipline as did Saeed, Mohammad Hafeez, Abdul Rehman and the two pacemen who kept England batsmen under pressure throughout the day to dismiss them after tea.
In a team game everyone matters but we cannot take away the credit from the brilliance of Saeed Ajmal`s nagging accuracy and attacking approach which brought the downfall of Andrew Strauss` men.
Though the ball rarely turned sharply and a great number of them kept straight, Saeed seldom faltered, not even when Matt Prior and Graeme Swann got into the rescue mode to add 51 valuable runs for the eighth wicket. That said, Prior`s unbeaten 70 I thought was an outstanding effort in the circumstances.
However, all those who perished against Saeed`s spin must have realised the fact that this series may not be a cakewalk for the top ranking English team.
In cricket today, the wrist-spinners are a rarity, as they have been throughout the game`shistory. But same is not the case with the offspinners. In every era there have been a few around and amongst them there have been match-winners like the great West Indian Lance Gibbs, the first spinner to take 300 wickets in Test cricket.
Before him there was Jim Laker of Surrey and England who remains the only bowler in Test history to take 19 wickets in a Test at Old Trafford in the Ashes series against Australia in 1956. There was also Ray Illingworth later inthe 70s and now Swann, one of the finest in the game today. Of course, Sri Lanka`s magician Muttiah Muralitharan towers above them all, having taken the highest wickets in Tests a whopping 800 of them.
Then there was our own Saglain Mushtaq, the inventor of Doosra whose skill with the ball earned him great respect all around.
Success, however, does not come easily but for a price and at times pressures are such that only men with nerves of steel keep their cool in adversity. That is the time when suspicious eyes begin to probe the action of a successful spinner or a fast bowler.
Muralitharan, we know, went through hell when he began to turn the screw on the Australians and it took him some time to be finally recognised as a special talent.
Saeed`s success, I suppose, would attract as much microscopic probe by those who think he may have a crooked movement of the arm. In 2010 he was reported, but not since, and I believe that his present action is as fair and legitimate as the naked eye can judge.
All the batsmen who have faced him recently have nothing to moan about, nor do the umpires. England`s failure against him in the Dubai Test, though, can spark yet another question mark on his bowling and signs are already there.
Whining Poms do not let any opportunity slip in this regard and all day while the wickets fell, a faction of the British media like a `pack of wolves` were busy trying to dig out a story to malign Saeed`s effort by casting aspertions on the way he bowled.
Although the wicket offered little help, Saeed kept the batsmen guessing most of the time. A great majority of the batsmen were out, I suppose, to his `straight` deliveries which had very little turn.
That was ample proof that Saeed had been playing on the English batsmen`s minds and that can be a huge advantage for Pakistan if today our batsmen are able to keep Strauss and company in the field and take a sizeable lead from hereon.