From Ashes winners to sad losers


Too little... The efforts of Paul Collingwood (left) and Ian Bell, who put on 175 runs, proved inadequate for England.-AP

MICHAEL VAUGHAN, the England captain, generously praised Pakistan "the better team" and said they deserved to win the three-Test series 2-0 after an astonishing collapse by England at the Gaddafi Stadium. They lost the match by an innings and 100 runs after suggesting before lunch that they might save it.

Before the interval Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood put up a barricade that held fast but in 73 balls or 67 minutes afterwards eight England batsmen lost their wickets while 43 runs were scored. This melting snowball syndrome was England at their worst, a reversion to the days when an avalanche of wickets was always just around the corner. We thought that had gone after six series successes in a row and of course the Ashes triumph last summer. We were wrong.

This defeat, in front of a crowd roaring on every ball and cheering their heroes — particularly the ferocious Shoaib Akhtar, the top wicket taker in the three matches with 17 who was picked out by Vaughan for his consistency, his high-speed and, amazingly, for his discipline — throughout the hour of triumph. Pakistan deserved both Vaughan's praise and their win for, after four days of trying to get into the game at Multan, they have given England a run-around on the final day of the first Test and the next two matches. Vaughan said he was at a loss to understand England's switch from emotional Ashes winners to sad losers in less than three months and he refused to look for excuses like the absence of Simon Jones, the fast bowler and the injury which has meant that Ashley Giles was not as effective as the spinner who took 17 wickets in Pakistan five years ago. "We have got to learn from our experiences in this series," Vaughan said. "The sign of greatness in a team is the way it reacts to defeat and we have to show that we can learn to take 20 wickets in a match and bat with more consistency."

Some critics back home — away from the smog, the dust, the sudden attacks of stomach cramps, the different culture — have accused England of losing their tough edge. I don't see that. They may have been complacent, they may have been surprised by Shoaib's return to form and they certainly lost concentration too often. Their batting line-up has had to be reshuffled at times and their bowling lacked penetration without Jones who may not take great quantities of wickets but who would, with a combination of skid and reverse swing, have made a vital difference in these three Tests.

I understand he is making good progress after his knee operation and that he will be fit for the tour of India in March and April. Giles goes home for work on his hip and Vaughan to see a specialist about his knee; at the moment it is torture for him to climb aboard the team bus. If they are all fit for India there may be a vital improvement in morale and performance.

By lunch, at 201 for two, still 128 behind, Bell and Collingwood seemed to have built a platform from which it would be difficult to lose. They had problems with Danish Kaneria's 57 varieties of wrist spin and Shoaib's bouncers but there were no chances, just a succession of optimistic lbw shouts. Four balls into the afternoon their third wicket stand of 175 came to an end when Collingwood stretched forward to a leg break from Kaneria and edged it to slip. It was the first step in a procession.

Next, Kevin Pietersen tried to cut a ball past backward point and was caught in the slips. Flintoff was out first ball, bowled by the googly. Bell, a game fighter like Collingwood, was lbw to the famed Shoaib slower ball. Shoaib was now breaking the 90 miles an hour barrier all the time, which is why his 70mph deliveries were so effective.

"We had no special plan after lunch," said Inzamam-ul-Haq, captain and man of the series with an average of 107.75, "just the knowledge that one wicket was all we needed.

When Collingwood was out we knew we were on our way. We were worried about England when they won back the Ashes but, thank God, we have triumphed and it is a big step forward." He did not mention Bob Woolmer, the coach, but their partnership is developing into something special and we shall hear of more triumphs in the near future.

The scores

Third Test, Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, Pakistan v England, November 29 to December 3. Pakistan won by an innings and 100 runs. Man of the Match: Mohammad Yousuf.

England — 1st innings: M. E. Trescothick c Kamran Akmal b Shoaib Malik 50; M. P. Vaughan c Mohammad Yousuf b Shoaib Malik 58; I. R. Bell c Mohammad Yousuf b Shoaib Malik 4; P. D. Collingwood c Danish Kaneria b Shoaib Akhtar 96; K. P. Pietersen c Kamran Akmal b Naved-ul-Hasan 34; A. Flintoff c Shoaib Akhtar b Naved-ul-Hasan 12; G. O. Jones b Danish Kaneria 4; S. D. Udal c Asim Kamal b Danish Kaneria 10; L. E. Plunkett b Mohammad Sami 9; M. J. Hoggard (not out) 1; S. J. Harmison c Kamran Akmal b Mohammad Sami 0; Extras (lb-5, nb-5) 10; Total 288.

Fall of wickets: 1-101, 2-114, 3-115, 4-183, 5-201, 6-225, 7-249, 8-280, 9-288.

Pakistan bowling: Shoaib Akhtar 22-6-45-1; Naved-ul-Hasan 20-3-76-2; Mohammad Sami 18-2-57-2; Shoaib Malik 14-1-58-3; Danish Kaneria 20-2-47-2.

Pakistan — 1st innings: Shoaib Malik c Plunkett b Hoggard 0; Salman Butt c Jones b Plunkett 28; Asim Kamal lbw b Hoggard 5; Mohammad Yousuf c Pietersen b Udal 223; Inzamam-ul-Haq (run out) 97; Hasan Raza c Flintoff b Harmison 21; Shoaib Akhtar c Udal b Plunkett 38; Kamran Akmal c Vaughan b Flintoff 154; Naved-ul-Hasan (not out) 42; Extras (b-5, lb-12, w-4, nb-7) 28; Total (for 8 wickets decl.) 636.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-12, 3-68, 4-180, 5-247, 6-516, 7-546, 8-636.

England bowling: Hoggard 23-4-106-2; Flintoff 36-8-111-1; Harmison 43-3-154-1; Plunkett 28.2- 1-125-2; Udal 18-1-92-1; Collingwood 6-0-22-0; Bell 2-0-9-0.

England — 2nd innings: M. E. Trescothick lbw b Shoaib Akhtar 0; M. P. Vaughan c & b Shoaib Akhtar 13; I. R. Bell lbw b Shoaib Akhtar 92; P. D. Collingwood c Hasan Raza b Danish Kaneria 80; K. P. Pietersen c Hasan Raza b Danish Kaneria 1; A. Flintoff b Danish Kaneria 0; G. O. Jones lbw b Shoaib Akhtar 5; S. D. Udal c Salman Butt b Mohammad Sami 25; L. E. Plunkett lbw b Shoaib Akhtar 0; M. J. Hoggard b Danish Kaneria 0; S. J. Harmison (not out) 0; Extras (b-13, lb-9, w-1, nb-9) 32; Total 248.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-30, 3-205, 4-212, 5-212, 6-212, 7-227, 8-227, 9-248.

Pakistan bowling: Shoaib Akhtar 19-3-71-5; Naved-ul-Hasan 16-3-55-0; Mohammad Sami 16-4-39-1; Shoaib Malik 4-2-9-0; Danish Kaneria 22.1-8-52-4.