DUBAI // The Abdul Razzaq- effect has already started to trickle down Pakistan cricket. On Saturday night, the free-spirited all-rounder lifted the gloom surrounding his national team when he blasted them to a remarkable, against-all-odds success over England here. At the same venue, two days later, it was the turn of the Pakistan second string to win a match that had seemed lost against English opponents.
Last night, rather than one man hogging all the glory, it was a trio of spin bowlers, Abdur Rehman, Mohammed Hafeez and Raza Hassan, who were the destroyers-in-chief. They choked the life out of the England Lions middle order, giving Pakistan A an 84-run triumph that had seemed far beyond them at halfway. Their total of 179 all out had appeared to be below par against a side who had their number in the preceding Twenty20 internationals.
The Lions also included two players, Ian Bell and Michael Carberry, who are getting their eye in before heading to Bangladesh for the series with the full England Test side. However, it was one of the least known Lions who had bowled them to such a position of strength. While the Punjab may turn out spin-bowlers of the standard of Rehman and Hassan by the dozen, Pontefract, in Yorkshire, is not known for its slow-bowling riches.
However, David Wainwright, the young Yorkshire left-armer, served notice of his promise, as he picked up three Pakistan A wickets in his miserly 10-over spell. Hafeez, the Pakistani captain, top-scored with a watchful 51 from 80 balls, but it was his handling of his battery of slow-bowlers which sealed the deal. Rehman's four wickets included those of Carberry and James Taylor in successive balls, which started the rot for the English side. When Hafeez picked up two of his own in a single over, victory was all but assured.
Afghanistan, meanwhile, face an uphill task if their otherwise joyous fortnight in the Emirates is to end in anything but defeat in Sharjah today. Canada rammed home a vast first innings advantage by setting the Afghans a notional target of 494 in the fourth innings of their Intercontinental Cup game. A draw is the best the Afghans can realistically hope for at their new "home" venue, and they started well as they reached 40 for no loss by the close yesterday.