Leicestershire 226 for 6 (Javid 54 ) drew with Pakistanis 321 for 9 (Azhar 73, Zaman 71, Salahuddin 69*) by 95 runs
As Pakistan laboured to work their way through a second string Leicestershire line-up, it was hard to be hugely optimistic of their chances in the Test series against England.
After all, their attack featured four of the front-line bowlers they are expected to field at Lord’s. Yet in this predictable two-day draw they were thwarted for much of the day by a man, Ateeq Javid, who has not scored a first-class 50 for more than four years. And that, in April 2014, was against Oxford MCCU.
The good news from Pakistan’s perspective is they are confident Mohammad Amir will be fit to play at Lord’s. After sustaining a knee injury in Ireland there had been some concern over his fitness. But he bowled at something approaching full pace on the side of the square during the lunch break and reported no significant issues afterwards.
His addition adds significantly to this attack but this was a reminder of the reliance this Pakistan side have upon his not especially broad shoulders.
Pakistan’s hope is that, as part of a five-man attack, the burden on Amir may be reduced. And it is true that in Faheem Ashraf, a seam-bowling all-rounder who gives the ball a good thrash, they have the sort of exciting all-round cricketer who provides some balance to the side.
Faheem was one of the more impressive of their bowlers in this game. Although he didn’t take a wicket, he generated decent pace and caught Javid a fearsome blow to the helmet with a skiddy bouncer. His control was impressive, too.
Of his colleagues, Mohammad Abbas was frugal (until Tom Taylor thrashed him for four boundaries in the last over of the game) though not especially threatening and Hassan Ali, so adept at gaining movement with a Kookaburra ball that confounds most bowlers, struggled to gain any movement from a Duke’s ball that delights most.
Rahat Ali was a little unfortunate. Probably the quickest of the attack, he saw a few edges fly through the slips – an issue that might become a factor of the next few weeks – and might have taken a couple of wickets in a probing opening spell that was resolutely seen off by the obdurate Harry Dearden.
Shadab Khan, meanwhile, claimed the wicket of Sam Evans with one that skidded on and Lewis Hill with one the batsman slogged to mid-off, but also delivered a couple of head-high full-tosses. The feedback from the Leicestershire batsmen – hardly the most experienced batsmen on the circuit – was that he was fairly easy to pick. Suffice to say if Pakistan ever need to call upon Fakhar Zaman’s bowling in a Test, they are in a bit of trouble.
He claimed a wicket here, though. Aadil Ali, coming down the pitch to a very wide delivery, was stumped by Adeel Shafique – a former MCC Young Cricketer who was drafted in as their keeper for most of the afternoon as Sarfraz took the opportunity to put his feet up.
Shafique, a former Nottinghamshire second XI player, is not affiliated with the Pakistan squad and was found at short notice by Leicestershire. It remains somewhat unclear who would stand-in for Sarfraz should he sustain an injury during a Test.
The man who enjoyed the day the most was probably Javid. Once thought of as a highly promising player at Warwickshire, he lost his way a little after struggling for opportunities behind the likes of Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott. After a patient start to this innings, he unveiled some pleasing strokes and, having secured a confidence boosting half-century, retired out.
Earlier Dearden, a batsman who appears to be geared up to negate good bowling but has no idea what to do against loose balls, carved a filthy wide delivery to point, while later Tom Wells nicked off as he drove at a wide one.
So it appears Pakistan will stick to the same XI at Lord’s that won them the Test in Dublin. They have not been especially impressive in their three warm-up matches against Division Two opposition but, as we have been reminded so often, it pays to never dismiss their chances. It’s not so long ago they went to No. 1 in the Test rankings and won the Champions Trophy against the odds in England.