Shabbir, Pathan make it a bowlers? day out
In Peshawar the bowlers discovered the antidote to the rampant batting supremacy that ruled the opening two matches.
Batsmen have traditionally struggled when the ball has swung through the air and Shabbir Ahmed and Irfan Pathan both troubled their opponents with late movement. Shabbir had control problems, delivering fourteen balls in his opening over but he showed a lot of courage to hit back quickly and dismiss Sachin Tendulkar.
He then rid his team of the serious Virender Sehwag threat and bowled V V S Laxman [whom he had previously terrorised for a couple of overs] with a glorious late inswinger. Any captain worth the name would swap the thirteen extra deliveries Shabbir surrendered [3 no-balls and 10 wides] for that trio of quality scalps.
Shabbir has had to overcome some setbacks in his career but with his high action providing bounce as well as the occasional prodigious swing he is a genuine prospect. Shabbir's early onslaught meant that for once in this series the side batting second wasn't facing an Everest size mountain of runs.
However, that didn't mean life was any easier for the Pakistan top order, because Pathan made the ball dart around like an eagle in the breeze. Having missed the first couple of matches following an encouraging tour of Australia, Pathan showed his combative spirit by performing well when fortune presented him with an opportunity. It's not surprising Irfan is a cricketing warrior because former Pakistan captain Imran Khan, one of the more combative players from that country is a Pathan.
The left-armer returned late in the innings to display a thoughtful side to his bowling when he fooled the talented Yasir Hameed just two short of his century. Pathan's beautifully disguised slower ball delivered at a crucial moment showed both the nerve and confidence he's gained from the Australian tour. The early wickets taken by both young swing bowlers put a different complexion on the third contest and when Pathan took his third wicket it made Pakistan's job look difficult.
However, it doesn't pay to underrate the highly skilful Abdur Razzaq. He rarely fails to make a contribution in one or other of his two main skills and in this game he helped his team with both his bowling and dangerous batting. He followed up Shabbir's incisive spell with some thoughtful bowling of his own but eventually it was his calm, but highly aggressive innings that swung the match Pakistan's way.
Razzaq has his own unorthodox method of batting; it might look agricultural at times but it is successful because it's based on thought and a bold approach. To take the initiative in a tight situation takes a lot of nerve and on this occasion fortune favoured the brave.
By making the ball move early in each innings a couple of impressive young bowlers made the match a contest but in the end it was a few healthy swings of the bat by the experienced Razzaq that gave Pakistan a slight edge in the series.