Azhar and Yasir impress but Trescothick ton earns draw

Pakistanis 359 for 8 dec (Younis 104, Shafiq 80, Masood 62) and 236 for 4 dec (Azhar 101*, Shafiq 69*) drew with Somerset 128 (Sohail 3-26, Amir 3-36) and 258 for 8 (Trescothick 106, Yasir 4-107)

A century from Marcus Trescothick held Pakistan to a draw in the tour game in Taunton while Yasir Shah, in his first first-class appearance for more than six months, delivered 32 well-controlled overs and claimed four wickets. But Trescothick's skill - Azhar Ali described him as "an inspiration" afterwards - and a dropped catch from Mohammad Amir helped Somerset survive with eight wickets down.

Under normal circumstances, Pakistan would have declared much earlier. But these games are more about gaining experience of the conditions than the result, so they delayed until Azhar Ali had reached an impressive century and Somerset required 468 to win in 73 overs. On an increasingly slow wicket offering neither seam or spin, taking 10 wickets was always likely to prove hard work.

Pakistan might well have done so, however, had Amir held on to a simple chance at mid-on. Josh Davey, who chose to take his chance with Somerset this week rather than represent Scotland, lunged at one from Yasir before he had scored and saw the ball loop to Amir. But the chance went down and Davey lasted another 50 minutes to take his side within sight of the finishing line. With Dominic Bess, the 18-year-old debutant, also lasting 56 minutes and Jack Leach lasting 44, Somerset did just enough to frustrate Pakistan.

Perhaps Pakistan's seamers were a little stiff after their exertions the previous day. Perhaps they were just a little complacent. But they bowled pretty well without ever quite appearing to be able to summon the intensity of their first innings performance. A quiet day in Taunton might not inspire as a full Test ground will.

In the grand scheme of things, though, this has been a highly satisfying three days for the tourists. Having not played red-ball cricket for six months or more, most of their batsmen enjoyed time at the crease, all their bowlers enjoyed decent spells with a Dukes ball. Such issues are more important than the result in such games.

There was an interesting observation from Matthew Maynard, the Somerset coach, afterwards, though. Asked whether he thought Pakistan could threaten England he agreed that they could, but with the caveat that their opening pair found form. If Mohammad Hafeez and Shan Masood can see off the new ball, the middle order can capitalise. But if they are exposed early, Pakistan could be vulnerable and the tail looks long. Their fielding, despite all the talk of improvement, also remains some way below standard for this level.

There is an episode of The Simpsons in which Homer, having overindulged, is asked to leave an all-you-can-eat seafood restaurant, then drives around in vain looking for another seafood restaurant. And then goes fishing.

Trescothick could identify with such an appetite. Only in his case, the appetite is for cricket.

Many batsmen, at Trescothick's stage of life, would have skipped this match. But such is his love of the game that he not only wanted to play, but volunteered for a second XI game in Kent a couple of weeks ago in a bid to find some form having not played for a few weeks; he no longer features in Somerset's T20 side.

The reward for that dedication was this century: the 61st of his first-class career and the 47th for Somerset. That means that only Harold Gimblett (who made 49) has scored more for the club and brings Trescothick level with Sir Viv Richards. And any time any batsman equals a record of Sir Viv's they know they have done pretty well.

It's hard to remember a time when Trescothick was not a feature of Somerset cricket. His first-class career started in 1993 before some of his teammates in this match were born. There is only one building on the ground that has been here longer than him and he is as much a part of the furniture as the tower of St James' church and The Quantocks.

There have been some to concessions to age. Though he remains willing, he is more limousine than sports car between the wickets and in the field these days and he now wears spectacles when batting. Every so often, he has to remove his helmet to clean the sweat from them. "It's a right pain in the backside," he said afterwards.

But many of the strokes are familiar: the half step forward followed by the firm push through the covers brought him a first ball boundary, the cut shot helped him to four boundaries in an over from Sohail Khan while Yasir was heaved for a six over long-on and towards Gimblett Hill. It's not surprising that they love him in these parts and he gives every indication he loves them right back. It will be a surprise if he's not still playing in a year.

By tea it seemed the match was drifting to a draw. Forty overs had been bowled and Somerset had lost just two wickets. Tim Rouse, who required several minutes of treatment after taking a crushing blow on the helmet from Amir when he had 14, had showed character and skill in going on to make 41 and Trescothick survived a few airy strokes through the gully region to the brink of safety.

But after Trescothick fell, edging as he reached for a wide one, Alex Barrow was adjudged leg before by despite hitting the ball through cover for four (umpire Billy Taylor reasoned that the ball brushed the pad before Barrow hit it) and James Hildreth rather spoiled his pleasing innings by chasing one angled across him and edging to the keeper. Suddenly Somerset had 15.5 overs to survive and only four wickets in hand. It was a little reminiscent of the Old Trafford Test of 2001 when England lost eight wickets, including Trescothick, against the same opposition to slip to defeat.

Perhaps, had Amir taken the simple chance or the DRS been in operation, Pakistan might have pushed for victory. Certainly Yasir could count himself unfortunate to be denied a couple more leg before dismissals. Despite gaining little turn and rarely utilising his googly, he troubled all the batsmen with his control and will be a real handful on a surface offering him any assistance. But Somerset held on.

Earlier Azhar and Asad Shafiq plundered 96 in 14.4 overs in the morning to extend their overnight partnership to 138 and see Azhar record the 26th first-class century of his career. Manipulating the spinners masterfully by going deep in the crease or skipping down the pitch, they disrupted their lengths and then punished them. Leach was cut for successive fours by Shafiq and Bess thrashed for successive sixes by Azhar. It was a reminder that Moeen Ali faces a tough series.

"We're pretty happy," Azhar said afterwards. "Most of the batsmen have spent time in the middle and today the pitch has become flatter and flatter. Yasir had a good, long spell but Trescothick batted well. He is definitely someone we look up to."

"They are a pretty impressive attack," Trescothick said in reply. "Yasir is probably the best leg-spinner in the world. He is on the money all the time. But if the ball doesn't swing and the pitch is good, you can score runs against them.

"I scratched around a bit at the start, but I started to feel a bit better in the afternoon. It's good to integrate with the youngsters and help ingrain the culture of the club within them. It was a nice day."

  • Amir's devastating swing sends warning to England

    If there were any doubts about Mohammad Amir's preparedness for a return to Test cricket, he has gone a long way towards dispelling them in Taunton with an incisive spell of top-class swing bowli

  • Azhar and Yasir impress but Trescothick ton earns draw

    A century from Marcus Trescothick held Pakistan to a draw in the tour game in Taunton while Yasir Shah, in his first first-class appearance for more than six months, delivered 32 well-controlled overs and claimed four wickets

  • Younis and Shafiq ensure calmness in the air

    There may be more impressive individual performances and more action-packed days in the next two or three months but, in the context of this Pakistan tour, this was an almost perfect start.

Somerset 4th innings Partnerships

1st47ME TrescothickAJ Hose
2nd98ME TrescothickTD Rouse
3rd38ME TrescothickJC Hildreth
4th8PD TregoJC Hildreth
5th12JC HildrethAWR Barrow
6th23JC HildrethJH Davey
7th8JH DaveyDM Bess
8th17MJ LeachDM Bess
9th7TD GroenewaldMJ Leach