There has been enough talk about his return to fill an afternoon of radio and enough newspaper copy devoted to him to wrap a thousand portions of fish and chips. And after five years, 10 months and 18 days, Mohammad Amir has his 52nd Test wicket.
With pleasing symmetry, the 24-year-old was last seen in Test cricket at the very same ground that he made his return, an ignominious five-ball duck at Lord’s in 2010 his last contribution to the game before he flew too close to the blazing sun of corruption and fell, so publicly, from grace.
To the consternation of scriptwriters everywhere, Amir’s reintroduction to the wilds of Test cricket was first made with a bat in hand, a couple of lusty blows down the ground actually providing an unexpected treat to the spectators who, to completely misquote WG Grace, had come to see him bowl not bat.
Fortunately for the red-trousered masses gathered at Lord’s, Chris Woakes’ best Glenn McGrath impression, which helped to rattle out the last four Pakistan wickets for 57 runs, meant they didn’t have to wait long on Day Two before getting to see Amir with a ball in his hand.
After all the build up, the reality was perhaps inevitably a little anticlimactic, there were a few predictable cries of no-ball from some of the more well-refreshed sections of the crowd, but otherwise the near constant hum from the stands at Lord’s barely changed in tone.
Perhaps there is a sense from spectators that the man who has spent time in prison and five years out of the game has been punished sufficiently for his crimes, and that now is the time to forgive and let him attempt to begin his career all over again.
However as it turned out, Amir’s punishment wasn't quite over, as his wait to claim a wicket was unnecessarily prolonged by some spectacularly inept fielding behind the wicket from some of his teammates.
Amir should rightfully have had Alastair Cook caught at slip in his very first spell, but Mohammad Hafeez shelled the easiest of chances to give the England skipper another life on 22, and leave the young left-armer with rather expensive figures of 0/33 from his first six overs.
Changing ends for his third spell with the ball, Amir saw another simple chance put down – Sarfraz Ahmed the culprit, Cook reprieved this time on 55 – not so much riding his luck as galloping it up and down the St John’s Wood Road.
Although the day belonged to Yasir Shah, Amir did eventually get something in his wickets column, this time deciding not to rely on the support of his teammates and finally removing Cook, the England captain dragging the ball back onto his own stumps to the understandable delight of the bowler.
This was not anything like the tearaway performance on the same ground all those years ago, when his 6/84, including the decimation of England’s top order, appeared to have announced the arrival of an exciting talent. However, for a man who knows more than most about the perils of putting your feet in the wrong place, it was an important first step on the road to Test match rehabilitation.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Jul 16, 2016 09:42:28 IST