Cricket: Pakistan’s Amir strikes on England return


TAUNTON: Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir marked his return to first-class cricket in England with three wickets as Somerset collapsed at Taunton on Monday.

Left-arm fast bowler Amir took three for 36 in 11 overs, all top-order wickets including former England opener Marcus Trescothick.

Somerset slumped to 128 all out in reply to Pakistan’s first innings 359 for eight declared — a deficit of 231 runs.

Amir’s exciting career came to a shuddering halt at Lord’s in 2010 when, during a Test against England, he and new-ball partner Mohammad Asif were caught bowling no-balls to order on the instructions of captain Salman Butt as part of a tabloid newspaper sting operation.

All three received five-year bans from cricket and together with sports agent Mazhar Majeed, jail terms.

Amir, who served three months in an English young offenders institute, has only featured in the game’s shorter formats since his return to Pakistan duty in January.

But the 24-year-old is now back in England and could make his Test return in the first of a four-match series at Lord’s on July 14.

After Pakistan had declared on the second morning of three in their tour opener against Somerset, Amir took the new ball.

Despite suggestions from England captain Alastair Cook that spectators might jeer Amir, there was nothing but polite applause as he came on to bowl.

Trescothick blocked his first ball and took two fours off Amir’s opening over, a push through cover-point and another down to third man.

– ‘Leader of the pack’ –

But Amir struck with his 14th ball back in first-class cricket on English soil.

Left-hander Trescothick, on eight, could only edge a superb outswinger that moved late and wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed held an excellent diving catch.

Amir struck again when a full-length inswinger bowled first-class debutant Adam Hose (10).

Somerset were now 23 for two, with Amir having taken two wickets for six runs in 11 balls.

And eight minutes after lunch, Amir bowled Peter Trego (23) with another fine inswinger that knocked over the batsman’s middle stump and left the other two standing.

Fellow quicks Sohail Khan (three for 26) and Rahat Ali (two for 38) also bowled well, with leg-spinner Yasir Shah taking two wickets late on.

Not a single no-ball was bowled in the Somerset innings.

Meanwhile Pakistan great Wasim Akram said fellow left-arm paceman Amir could form an effective partnership with Shah, Pakistan’s highest ranked bowler who is returning from a doping ban.

“Amir can be the leader of the pack which also has a quality leg-spinner Yasir Shah,” said Wasim in an interview with AFP in Karachi on Monday.

“I think if Shah is fit he can be the trump card in a varied bowling attack,” said Wasim, who in his own playing days often paired up with spinners Mushtaq Ahmed and Saqlain Mushtaq to devastating effect.

Only Somerset’s James Hildreth (47 not out), long overlooked by England, offered much resistance after being dropped on 13 by Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq in the slips off Rahat.

Pakistan resumed on their overnight score of 324 for five, with Younis Khan 99 not out.

It took the 38-year-old Younis 12 balls Monday to complete his 53rd first-class hundred but he got there with a two to fine leg off Dutch paceman Paul van Meekeren.

Younis’s century came off 173 balls, including 14 fours.

He was out soon afterwards, well caught by a diving Tim Rouse in the slips off Scotland seamer Josh Davey.

There was an ironic moment when the first delivery Amir faced was a Davey no-ball.

Next ball, Amir was caught behind off Davey for a duck.

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