Pakistan lead by 55 runs with 6 wickets remaining
England’s tail wagged, Pakistan’s top order crumbled and things are fantastically poised for tomorrow.
After the early dismissal of Matt Prior, Stuart “Chris” Broad seized the initiative. He out-batted Ian Bell with some positive shots against the spinners. Both Graeme Swann and Jimmy Anderson gave him some support as he struck six fours and one six on his way to 58*. The manner of his scoring shots alone was good enough to warrant plaudits; that it was in the aftermath of yesterday’s collapse and was sufficient to present England with a valuable lead of 70 runs means this was one of his most important contributions with the bat in his career thus far. Then, as Pakistan stuttered in their second innings, he bowled with discipline, conceding just 16 runs from 11 overs. It was Swann and Monty Panesar who took the wickets, but Broad – excellent in the field as well – who characterised the day. Half a year on from his nadir, his averages with both bat and ball are improving at a remarkable rate.
Pakistan made tortoise-like progress to 125/4 at close of play, although Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq’s unbroken partnership of 71 runs from 33 overs could be described as a fight-back of sorts. The spinners did the damage early: both openers fell with the score on 29, followed by Younis Khan, who was bowled by a lovely ball from Panesar. But perhaps the crucial wicket was that of their hero-in-waiting Misbah-ul-Haq. Panesar struck him below the knee roll as he played forward defensively; the decision was referred and Billy Bowden seemed to take an epoch or two in reviewing the evidence. But the decision stood and at 54/4, England were in a dominant position. The talk in the commentary box of a victory by stumps was of course foolishly optimistic, but those early inroads have made England favourites to level the series tomorrow.
This was a compelling day for either team, played out at long last in front of an eager crowd. England will be confident of running through the tail again and chasing down a low target. However, and this is a however that is triple-underlined, capitalized and written in giant neon lights, on this pitch and against these spinners, any chase of more than 150 will be challenging. With Pakistan leading by 55 runs, anyone who thinks the outcome is a certainty must be an ex-Yorkshire cricketer currently employed by the BBC. Or have been on the gin.