Pakistan draws first blood

SOUTH AFRICA had to swallow the bitter pill of two poor decisions by Australian umpire Darrell Hair as Graeme Smith's team went down by eight wickets in the first Test against Pakistan at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.


Pakistan's opening batsman Taufeeq Umar acknowledges the cheers of the crowd after reaching his century in the first innings. -- Pic. REUTERS-

SOUTH AFRICA had to swallow the bitter pill of two poor decisions by Australian umpire Darrell Hair as Graeme Smith's team went down by eight wickets in the first Test against Pakistan at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.

The video evidence against Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar was enough to convince match referee Clive Lloyd to ban the "Rawalpindi Express" for one Test and two one-day internationals. It was clear from the television footage that Akhtar had used abusive language against Paul Adams and Lloyd was quick to spot that on the first day and punish the bowler for violating the International Cricket Council's Code of Conduct.

But one wonders when the guilty umpires like Hair would get some sort of punishment — on the video evidence — for changing the whole complexion of a Test match with their cruel mistakes.

Nowadays the technology is so advanced that it was clear from the replays on the mini screen that neither Herschelle Gibbs nor Jacques Kallis had touched the ball with their bats at crucial junctures in the second innings. Had Hair sought the help of the television umpire, both the key South African batsmen would have definitely survived, but strange rules and regulations of the ICC not only ruined the Test match but also cost South Africa dearly in the end.

So far around 22 players had been banned and more than 90 players and team officials had been fined and reprimanded in various international matches for violating the code of conduct. In most of the instances, television evidence has played a vital role. However, it is strange that not a single umpire has ever been reprimanded for committing a blunder, leave alone the talk about fines and ban on the men in white coats and black trousers.

With Akhtar bowling at his full pace, it is hard for umpires in the middle to give a right judgement, so there is every bit of a chance that they can make a mistake. The players are also human beings and if they get punished for bringing the game into disrepute why not the umpires?

When a close run-out or a stumping decision goes against a batsman through television replays then he has every right to always get a fair decision, whether it is caught behind, bat or pad or for that matter leg before, again through television replays.

South Africa certainly had its nose in front at the end of the third day's play with a lead of 18 runs and nine wickets in hand. But Hair's two astonishing decisions took the match away from South Africa within the first hour of the fourth morning's play. When the technology is there it is time that the ICC must do something to put it to good use.

The two lightning short deliveries from Akhtar clearly flew off the shoulders of both Gibbs and Kallis, and South Africa just simply couldn't recover from those two shocking dismissals.

Pakistan recalled experienced wicketkeeper Moin Khan and Mushtaq Ahmed, who both played in a Test last in March 2000 against New Zealand. Moin took Rashid Latif's place ahead of young wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal while Mushtaq forced his way back into the side after claiming 105 wickets and played a key role in Sussex's maiden victory in the county championship.

But the real surprise was the 27-year-old Asim Kamal from Karachi, who came in place of an injured Inzamam-ul-Haq in the middle-order and was unlucky not to get a century on debut when he was bowled for 99.

The visiting team certainly misread the wicket, prepared by English curator Andy Atkinson, which benefited Pakistan's three spinners more than the four-pronged pace attack of South Africa.

Debutant Asim Kamal was unlucky to miss a century by just one run in the first essay. -- Pic. AFP-

South Africa was heading for a big total at 153 for two, thanks to some sloppy fielding by the Pakistan players before lunch on the first day. Gary Kirsten was dropped twice in the slips, while Moin failed to grab a hard flash from Kallis. However, had English umpire Neil Mallender referred a decision to the third umpire, Kallis would have been out for 22 when Asim took a neat catch at forward short leg off leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, which got a big inside edge.

Mallender's another blunder at last gave Pakistan a breakthrough and South Africa lost its way. The umpire adjudged Kallis caught behind when the ball clearly missed the edge of the bat. Kirsten got a severe blow of Akhtar's lethal pace before Neil McKenzie fell first ball to a vicious toe-crushing yorker from Akhtar and South Africa slumped to 159 for three.

Kirsten missed the line of a lightning bouncer from Akhtar and had to leave the field on 53 with blood gushing from a deep cut just below the left eye. The experienced left-hander had 10 stitches and also two minor fractures on his cheekbone and on the upper part of his nose.

However, an aggressive 72 by Mark Boucher with 11 boundaries lifted the South African first innings total to 320. Off-spinner Shoaib Malik took four wickets for 42 runs. Akhtar and Kaneria chipped in with two wickets each.

"Had we got through the day, Kirsten could have batted on the second morning. His injury was a big blow to us," said coach Eric Simons. Kirsten had surely settled down for a big knock before he had to retire hurt, especially against Mushtaq Ahmed, who conceded 80 runs off his 18 overs, without any success.

Smith soon realised on the second morning that he had made a mistake not to play left-arm spinner Robin Peterson on a slow turning wicket. The left-handed opening pair of Taufeeq Umer and Imran Farhat had little difficulty against the four seamers in putting on a solid partnership of 109 runs.

Shoaib Akhtar (middle) is congratulated by his team-mates after he got rid of South African skipper Graeme Smith cheaply in the second innings. Shoaib was later suspended for verbal abuse against Paul Adams, a violation of the ICC Code of Conduct. -- Pic. AFP-

Taufeeq, who returned to the side after missing a Test match and 10 one-day internationals at home against Bangladesh and South Africa due to multiple knee injuries, had a lucky escape. He played a short delivery from Shaun Pollock back onto his stumps but the ball failed to dislodge the bails after hitting the stumps.

Imran Farhat was playing fluently on 41 with seven boundaries before he tried to lift Paul Adams and threw away his wicket just before lunch. Yasir Hameed (16) and Yousuf Youhana (8) both failed to give Taufeeq support and edged to Boucher before Asim too had his heart in his mouth when he faced his first delivery in Test cricket. Andre Nel's sharp delivery struck Asim's pads below the knee roll but this time Hair gave the benefit of the doubt to the batsman. Asim grew in confidence from then on, while Taufeeq, at the other end, reached to his century with 15 boundaries in just under five hours. Adams finally got the key wicket of Taufeeq (111 off 247 balls) just before the second new ball was due when he took a brilliant diving catch off his own bowling.

However, Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Kallis and Nel, all failed to make an impact with the second new ball and in the 15 overs, Shoaib Malik and Asim added 52 more runs and took their team's total to 275 for four by the end of the day's play.

Asim showed a nice temperament and technique, though he hit only two boundaries in his unbeaten innings of 49 during his nearly three hours of stay at the wicket on the second day.

Both Asim and Shoaib Malik wiped off South African first innings total before Malik was bowled by Adams for a well made 47. His 99-run partnership with Asim broke Pakistan's previous best fifth wicket stand of 54 against South Africa between Youhana and Faisal Iqbal at Cape Town last year.

Asim hit Adams for two boundaries in his 90s, but played his first false stroke of the innings when he required just a single run to get his century on debut. He played six dot balls on 99 before he was caught in two minds and played on to a delivery from Nel. He occupied the crease for five hours and 15 minutes and hit 11 fours and a six in his brilliant knock.

Danish Kaneria is ecstatic after bowling Shaun Pollock. The spinner had a fivewicket haul in the second innings. -- Pic. AP-

Australian Arthur Chipperfield (against England in 1934) and West Indian Robert Christiani (against England in 1948) are the other two Test players who had been unlucky to get out on 99 in their debut Test innings.

The departure of Asim exposed Pakistan's long tail and spinner Adams returned with career-best figures of seven for 128 off 45 overs. Moin's 37 in the end stretched Pakistan's lead to 81 before the innings came to an end just before tea at 401. Moin Khan missed an easy catch offered by Gibbs when on 13 but South Africa lost captain Smith after Akhtar found the outside edge. However, Gibbs went on to complete his half-century with six fours and a top-edged six off Akhtar's express delivery. Together with Boeta Dippenaar, Gibbs batted for over an hour to take his team to 99 for one at close of play.

The two unfortunate dismissals on the fourth morning dashed South Africa's hopes of putting up a decent score and challenging the Pakistan batsmen in the fourth innings on a slow turning track.

Akhtar, no doubt, bowled with lot of pace and his opening spell of 4-1-3-2 took the game away from South Africa. Dippenaar miscued a pull and holed out to Youhana at mid-on, while Gibbs added just three to his overnight 56 before he fell to Hair's misjudgement.

Kallis and Neil McKenzie put on 41 for the fourth wicket before Akhtar returned for his second spell and won a controversial caught behind decision off Kallis. Akhtar, however, couldn't complete his next over due to a strained hamstring and returned to the dressing room.

Paul Adams had career-best figures of seven for 128 in Pakistan's first innings. -- Pic. REUTERS-

However, leg-spinner Kaneria then spun the web around South Africa. By the time South Africa extended its lead to just 90 it had lost half of the side with Kaneria bowling McKenzie round the legs.

Kirsten (46) and Boucher put on 43 runs before Boucher gave a regulation bat and pad catch after scoring 15. Kirsten lost his patience and skied the ball straight to a waiting Youhana at long on. South Africa had lost six top wickets and was only 156 runs ahead. Kaneria picked up three of the last four wickets to get his fifth five-wicket haul in Test cricket. South Africa lost its remaining batsmen in the space of just 13 deliveries. Mushtaq Ahmad at last got a wicket after bowling 35 overs, and South Africa set a small victory target of 161 for Pakistan.

Taufeeq and Imran raised the 100 in 24 overs and it looked as if Pakistan would finish the match on the fourth day itself. Both batsmen hit eight boundaries each in their fifties and in the process also became the first ever Pakistani pair to record a century partnership in each innings in the country's 296-Test history.

Under fading light, Smith got the consolation wicket of Imran (58 off 96 balls) before the players walked off with Pakistan needing a mere 24 runs for victory. The next morning Pakistan needed just 6.5 overs to wrap up the match but not before Adams got his eighth scalp of the match when he had Taufeeq (63 off 114 balls) bowled off a delivery, which didn't bounce above ankle height. Yasir Hameed remained unbeaten on 20 while Shoaib Malik hit the winning boundary off Smith to put Pakistan 1-0 up in the series.