Pakistan 428 (Shafiq 186*, Haris 79, Babar 57, Crook 4-89) and 134 for 1 (Imam 59*, Haris 55*) beat Northamptonshire 259 (Rossington 90, Shadab 6-77) and 301 (Newton 118, Cobb 52, Abbas 4-62, Shadab 4-80) by nine wickets
Pakistan will head to Ireland for the first Test of their tour with a hard-fought win behind them after finally seeing off a game Northamptonshire on the fourth-afternoon at Wantage Road with a simple chase of 133.
As tour matches go, this was a very worthwhile exercise for both sides and a template for preparation before a Test tour. Only on the final afternoon when Pakistan’s chase became a formality did the game lose intensity. Therefore, Shadab Khan‘s 10 for 157 in the match, Asad Shafiq’s unbeaten 186, and Haris Sohail‘s two half-centuries was solid form to take to Malahide.
Whether conditions in Ireland in any way resemble this slow wicket under unbroken sunshine on Friday is another matter and Pakistan showed vulnerability for the brief time the ball did swing at the start of their first innings and had Shafiq been caught on 13, Northants may have run them closer.
But Pakistan travel over the Irish Sea with success and some selection decisions made clearer. Shadab is surely now worthy of inclusion even if the wicket turns out as emerald green as the Pakistan caps. The way he bamboozled Northants on the first afternoon was an indication of what a good legspinner can do and Ireland’s batsman have little pedigree playing legspin either.
It is also a huge threat to tailenders and Shadab duly took the final two wickets of the Northants second innings, Brett Hutton and Gareth Wade lbw, to complete a maiden 10-wicket match haul.
Far less of a threat was Mohammad Amir. After taking 1 for 45 against Kent, he was somewhat wayward here and lacked the zip that has produced 95 wickets in 30 Tests – he went wicketless in 27 overs. Perhaps he was saving himself for William Porterfield and Co.
It was the far-less heralded Mohammad Abbas that opened Pakistan’s route to victory. Abbas, fairly short for a fast bowler but skiddy and likely to be effective in conditions that could prevail in Malahide, has played in Pakistan’s last five Tests after making his debut in the West Indies a year ago. Having been unlucky not to take a wicket in the first innings, regularly beating the bat, he took two with the old ball on the fourth morning, breaking through in the 14th over of the day.
Full deliveries slid into Rob Newton and Steven Crook to win lbw decisions before extracting two of Rob Keogh’s stumps when the new ball was taken. Newton’s wicket was key. After making a battling century on the third afternoon, he needed to lead Northants well after lunch to try and save the game. But he could only add 16 to his overnight score before being beaten by one that kept low – the first of five morning wickets for 61 runs.
It left a simple target and the chance for Azhar Ali to find some form after 15 against Kent and just 9 in the first innings here. But trying to take a leg-bye running from the non-striker’s end he collided mid-pitch with his opening partner Imam-ul-Haq and was beaten by Ricardo Vasconcelos’ throw. That the nephew of Inzamam was involved in a comedy run-out was not lost on the Twitterati.
So it was left to Imam and Haris to continue their earlier form, which they did with the most fluent run-scoring of the game to reach their target in 27 overs. Haris resumed in good touch from his first-innings 79 and steered a boundary through backward point off Hutton, flicked another through square leg off Wade and drove the same bowler fluently through extra-cover en route to a 66-ball half-century, his second of the game.
Imam, who could be set for a Test debut in Malahide after playing in both tour matches with Sami Aslam left out here, was the only Pakistan batsman to make a significant score against Kent and here warmed to his task having scratched around for 11 from 60 balls in the first innings. He slammed Rob Keogh’s offspin back over his head for his first boundary, passed fifty in 72 balls before pulling the winning boundary to send Pakistan to Dublin with victory.