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Mixed outing for Amir on return to scene of 2010

In 2010, Mohammad Amir was found guilty of spot-fixing. The Pakistan pacer had deliberately bowled no balls during the team’s tour of England. Six years later, he returned to the scene of the offence.

cricket Updated: Jul 16, 2016 11:55 IST
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Mohammad Amir conceded 65 runs during his 18-over spell against England on Friday.(REUTERS)

In 2010, Mohammad Amir was found guilty of spot-fixing. The Pakistan pacer had deliberately bowled no balls during the team’s tour of England. Soon after, he was banned and in 2011, had a criminal conviction to his name.

Six years later, he returned to the scene of the offence.

On his return to Test cricket, he bowled 18 overs at Lord’s on Friday. Amir disappointed with the new ball, but well with the old one. It was not going to be a walk in the park.

In his first spell, Amir bowled eight overs, conceding 35 runs. His length was mostly short and England batsmen Alastair Cook and Joe Root enjoyed being on the receiving end. In comparison with the English bowlers, Amir & Co, were undisciplined with their lines and lengths.

On Thursday, when Pakistan batted, the side lost its first wicket---Shan Masood---in the 13th over to England pacer Chris Woakes, who emphasized on swinging the ball.

Pakistan pacer Rahat Ali gave his team a better start on Friday, sending Alex Hales home in the 2nd over of the innings, but consistency eluded Ali. In the seventh over, Amir invited Cook to poke at a swinging delivery, but Mohammad Hafeez dropped at slip. The delivery was Amir’s best in his first spell.

Amir failed to bring the ball back into the right hander and relied on out-swing. He bowled a majority of his deliveries going wide on the crease, imparting an angle. Although, he planned to go wider and keep batsmen guessing, his inconsistent length made him look pedestrian.

Five years is a long time. From 2010 to 2015, Amir did not play any cricket, not even practice. He was not the same. During his last Test match at the same venue in 2010, Amir swung the ball generously and pitched in the corridor. Before the match was called off due to fixing, Amir took six wickets. His length was fuller, line closer to the fourth stump and he bowled according to the field.

Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior and Graeme Swann were caught behind the stumps. Paul Collingwood was trapped in front with an inswinger. From 2010, there was change in Amir’s approach against the same opposition in 2016.

Against Cook, Amir went wide on the crease and hit the sixth stump. When Amir bowled a delivery into Cook, it drifted down the leg-side. Against Joe Root, Amir kept taking the ball away from the right-hander, but he failed due to his length. Root punched him through cover twice for boundaries. With an attacking field placement on the off-side, Amir’s plan was clear. He would have succeeded had he kept the outswinger a surprise.

As a left-arm pacer, inswing could be the best option against a right hander. Simultaneously, a left-hander facing an outswinging delivery could have difficulties negotiating. Amir, failed to understand the logic initially and wasted the new ball.

Coming into his second spell with a semi-new ball in the 26th over, Amir was spot on. He induced an edge from Cook’s bat again, this time it was wicket-keeper Sarfaraz Ahmed who squandered the chance. The delivery brought back the memories of the 2010 Test as Cook was dismissed in similar manner. But the batsman thanked his luck and kept scoring.

Amir did not change his approach completely. He changed sides, varied his bowling and was patient. Though, Amir’s line remained outside off, Cook erred and lost his wicket on an average delivery in the 46th, dragging the ball onto his stumps during Amir’s third spell. Amir conceded 65 runs in his spell of 18 overs.

Others, including Wahab Riaz and Ali, were ineffective for similar reasons. Only leg-spinner Yasir Shah emerged with a five-wicket haul. Shah bowled a perfect line and generously gave the ball air, which helped him to break from the pitch.

Shah put Pakistan on top at stumps on Day Two, with England trailing by 86 runs. Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq might be content with his bowling unit, he will be happy to see Amir stepping up early morning and finishing England’s tail.

First Published: Jul 16, 2016 11:55 IST