LEEDS, ENGLAND // Salman Butt will captain Pakistan for the first time today in the second Test against Australia at Headingley, marking a new era for Pakistani cricket - a mere eight days after the previous new era had apparently dawned. A week is a long time in the highly politicised world of Pakistan cricket. On July 13, Shahid Afridi returned to the Test arena for the first time in four years to captain Pakistan in the team's nominal home Test with Australia, played at Lord's because of the security situation in Pakistan. Yet before the game had even finished, Afridi had resigned and after Pakistan's 150-run defeat he announced his retirement from Test cricket with immediate effect. Butt, previously the vice-captain, admitted that while the news was unexpected, he was not shocked by Afridi's decision. "I knew nothing about it beforehand, but I have respect for his honest opinion," Butt told cricinfo.com "Being vice-captain meant that if anything goes wrong you are the next man, so I was partially ready for something like this, but I didn't expect him to retire like this." If retiring smacked of an overreaction, Afridi was at least partially culpable for his side's defeat. His shot selection, particularly in the second innings, was poor by his own admission. "With my temperament I can't play Test cricket," he said. "It is better if a youngster comes in my place, probably a genuine batsman or even a genuine bowler." Yet for periods of the Lord's Test Pakistan were on top, and for the second Test Butt can call on arguably the most exhilarating pace bowling attack in international cricket. Umar Gul, Mohammad Amer and Mohammad Asif swung the ball prodigiously in Australia's first innings at Lord's and dismissed Ricky Ponting's side for 253. The problem lies with a batting lineup short on test experience and patience - Butt was the only Pakistan batsman to score a 50 in either innings. Meanwhile, Butt yesterday hinted he would like an extended stint as captain. "Everybody who gets into this kind of challenging position, it helps to be permanently appointed," Butt told reporters yesterday. "But this is what we have and it goes like that with everyone. Hopefully if we can do well we can stretch it [his tenure] a bit longer." While Pakistan's preparations for the second Test have demonstrated all the stability of a government in a banana republic, Australia by contrast showed at Lord's exactly what can be achieved with discipline and application. Nobody would suggest Marcus North is a better bowler than Shane Warne, but he managed to do something Warne never did by getting his name on the honours board at Lord's with 6-55. North's off-spinners were innocuous, but the minimal turn he extracted from the pitch was enough to tempt Pakistan's batsmen into a series of shots that would have been understandable in a Twenty20 game, but were absurd given the match situation on day four. North, however, skipped training on Monday through illness and could miss the Headingley Test, along with Ben Hilfenhaus, who injured a shoulder while fielding at Lord's. Peter George is on standby to make his Test debut if Hilfenhaus fails to recover, although Clint McKay is also in contention. Usman Khawaja, an uncapped 23-year-old who was born in Pakistan, is in line to replace North, meaning Australia's lineup could be almost as inexperienced as Pakistan's. * AP Pakistan v Australia, Second Test, Day One, 4.10pm, TEN Sports
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