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North sends Pakistan south on day four

Marcus North became the second unlikely bowler to mark his name on the new neutral Honours Boards as Pakistan succumbed to Australia & Shahid Afridi announced his re-retirement.

Pakistan started the day needing a distant looking 326 runs but with nine wickets still in hand.

Come the end of the day they had lost six wickets to the part-time off-spinner Marcus North and their captain Afridi - who announced he would re-retire from Test cricket after the second Test of this series.

Promising start

It had all started so promisingly for Pakistan, Salman Butt was stroking the ball around the ground again and Azhar Ali was doing a competent job partnering him.

The partnership added 100 runs to the total and chink of light appeared for the 'home' team.

Ben Hilfenhaus finally broke the partnership finding some swing to tempt Azhar into an edge to Tim Paine behind the stumps.

Now joined by Umar Amin, Butt looked likely to convert his second big score of the match into a century at last.

A staggeringly sharp bit of wicket-keeping from Tim Paine shattered that idea, giving North his first wicket.

Eyebrows were raised when Australia captain Ricky Ponting turned to North, known more for his batting, to bowl instead of full-time spinner Steve Smith.

It proved an inspired decision though.

The dashing blade of Umar Akmal was scoring more rapid runs for Pakistan and they looked likely to reach lunch with the possibility of reaching that unlikely target still alive.

Then Umar chased at a wide ball from North and plopped a simple catch to the grateful Michael Clarke in the slips. Pakistan were 216-4 at lunch.

Wafting wildly

Umar Amin and Kamran Akmal looked as if they might establish a decent partnership too but then another moment of magic in the field changed things.

Kamran shuffled forwards and prodded at one from North, the ball shot at Simon Katich at short-leg who reacted brilliantly to grab onto and hold the catch - a third wicket for the unlikely North.

Four balls later it was four.

Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi came and went. He wafted wildly at a couple, scored two and then scooped a high, high catch to Mike Hussey on the boundary.

From 186-2 Pakistan were now 229-6 and any hope of chasing 440 was surely gone.

Kamran Akmal tried his best, scoring a respectable 46 but batting with the tail the pressure was too much.

North was desperate for a fifth wicket and Ponting was doing his best to oblige. The skipper was tinkering with his field settings in an almost compulsively picky way.

Again, it worked though. Ponting brought the field in, offering Kamran the chance to hit over them. He went for it playing a massive swipe at Smith, missed and was bowled.

North's fifth wasn't far behind and again some credit must go to Ponting. Again the skipper moved the fielders and as if to oblige him Umar Amin hit it straight to the man he'd just moved to mid-on.

North was mobbed by his team-mates, celebrating the fact he'd joined Shane Watson on the Honours Board.

Touching moment

Ponting had a more direct hand in the last two wickets, or two hands to be precise as he held on to relatively straightforward catches to remove Gul for Smith's third wicket and Kaneria for North's sixth.

Pakistan may have got closer to that enormous target than many expected but they will have wanted more from their batsmen.

North lead the Australia team off to a warm reception, holding the match ball aloft.

There was also a touching moment as umpire Rudi Koertzen lingered to receive an ovation of his own, lead by the players, in this his penultimate Test and last at Lord's.

Second bombshell

As the awards podium was erected Afridi dropped his second bombshell of the match - this one not to Hussey but the BBC's Test Match Special.

"I did the wrong thing." he said. "I think my temperament is not good enough for Test cricket, and I'm struggling with my side [injury] as well."

"I think maybe the next Test [at Headingley next week] will be my last Test." Pushed to ask if he was retiring again he added: "Yes."

Perhaps the only unsurprising element of the announcement was his recommendation of Pakistan man-of-the-match Salman Butt as his successor.

Later, talking to Sky Sports, Afridi even cast doubt over his participation at Headingley citing concerns over his fitness with that side injury.

His opposite number Ponting expressed surprise, this having been Afridi's first Test for four years anyway after he came out of Test retirement to captain the side.

Pakistan and Afridi's demise at Lord's were sad but the team were the reflection of their leader - at times dazzling at others dismal.

It was a match full of surprises at the Home of Cricket: two utterly unexpected bowlers on the Honours Board, some thrilling cricket and the re-retirement of the man known as 'Boom Boom'.

Who said cricket was dull?

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