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England v Pakistan 1st Test
Lord's: 13-17 July, 2006

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

There will always be an element of "what if" about this Test match - not merely with regard to England's declaration, but also Pakistan's fielding on the first day when they dropped five catches.

Matthew Hoggard batting in England's second innings
Steve Harmison should have been sent in rather than Matthew Hoggard

Had those chances been taken, the chances are that Pakistan might have won the game.

But they didn't, and that is clearly an area that Bob Woolmer must focus on between now and the second Test.

The discussion about England's declaration is not as straightforward.

I was surprised that they batted on for quite as long on the final morning (35 minutes) because it immediately ruled out any chance of their taking a second new ball with which to blast out the tail.

Because Pakistan were able to set defensive fields and bowl negatively, England never really had the initiative that you can then take with you onto the field when you are bowling for victory.

To expect England to have declared before the close on the fourth day is unrealistic - Roy of the Rovers stuff.

But they did not bat positively enough to convey the impression that they really believed they were setting up a victory.

For a start, Steve Harmison should have been sent in to bat rather than Matthew Hoggard.

Knowing when to declare is one of the difficulties you face, particularly when you are a stand-in captain.

The fact that you are only in temporary charge does have an influence on your decisions.

I am sure that Strauss wanted to make absolutely sure that he did not hand back the reins to Andrew Flintoff with England one-nil down in the series.

Monty Panesar bowled skilfully in the second innings, without much luck.

He was visibly searching for his first wicket, and when he removed the dangerous Yousuf lbw for 48, he relaxed and looked more dangerous.

Liam Plunkett
Liam Plunkett has yet to convince us that he is the real deal at this level

With more games under his belt, he will acquire the confidence to toss the ball up and give it more air.

But he regularly beat the bat and fully justified the selectors' decision to retain him, rather than bolster the batting by playing Jamie Dalrymple.

This week will be full of debate about Geraint Jones' position.

I thought he kept wicket superbly in this Test - comfortably better than his counterpart, Kamran Akmal.

His barren run with the bat, though, causes concern while Chris Read averages 50 since being dropped two years ago.

Andrew Flintoff plays for Lancashire on Tuesday - another important step on the road to his return at Old Trafford, and this would strengthen England enormously.

No one should be more relieved than Liam Plunkett - he has yet to convince us he is the real deal at this level but the 21-year-old remains England's only realistic option because of his batting ability.

It would be crazy to include Ian Bell, and expect Flintoff to be part of a four-man attack at Old Trafford - that would usher Flintoff onto the nearest physio's couch.


Pakistan in England 2006
27 Jun 06 |  Future tour dates
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19 Apr 06 |  Cricket


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