Match in the balance

Andrew Strauss struck a confident century on the fourth day of the Headingly Test and, in the process, gave England an outside chance of winning the match. However, set 323 runs to win after their strongest bowling performance in the series so far, Pakistan will also feel that they stand a chance of victory.

An opening stand of 158 between Marcus Trescothick and Strauss gave England the psychological edge early on, but all of the visitors’ bowlers contributed in dismissing the remainder of England’s batting line-up. However, lower-order resistance came in the form of Chris Read who hit a timely half-century to keep the home side in contention.

Strauss’ second century of the series may not have existed had he not survived a close LBW appeal in Danish Kaneria’s first over, but he took advantage of the decision and hit 16 boundaries on both sides of the wicket, looking versatile against the Pakistani attack. Strauss played Kaneria’s attacking leg-spin well and scored a number of fours through the mid-wicket region, looking fluid when playing against the spin.

In the past, Trescothick has often dominated opening bowling attacks, but he has had a rough series by his standards – before this match only averaging 13. It was about time he had some luck, and it came courtesy of Kamran Akmal today. Twice.

On both six and seven, Akmal dropped catches from the edge of Trescothick’s blade, the second one a simple chance off of Umar Gul’s bowling, further adding to the pain of the keeper’s miserable series. Like Strauss, he cashed in on the missed chances and smashed 58, giving England’s middle-order a chance to build on the success.

After a peculiar dismissal yesterday, Inzamam-ul-Haq relinquished control of the team, and Younis Kahn, who was run-out by Inzamam yesterday, was the stand-in captain, and it was largely his strategy which enticed Alistair Cook’s downfall: Kahn crowded the bat, intimidating Cook, then Kaneria turned one into the batsman, and had him caught at short leg.

Kaneria went on to take Kevin Pietersen’s vital wicket, and the middle-order breakthrough was completed when a stimulated Mohammad Sami tore into Strauss and Bell, having them both caught behind. Left exposed, Collingwood only managed 25 runs before he played on to Shahid Nazir, but the low-bounce of the delivery did not aid his stroke.

A pressurised situation greeted Chris Read to the crease: another quick wicket would mean that the tail would be exposed to a fired-up bowling attack, and Read’s nerves seemed to have got to him when he got off the mark with an edge. But 50 runs later, any doubts had been extinguished as Read held his bat aloft to the crowd. His assault on the bowlers was effective, and helped England get the runs required to give them a chance of getting something from the match.

England 515
Kevin Pietersen 135, Ian Bell 119
Umar Gul 5-123, Danish Kaneria 2-111

Pakistan 538
Mohammad Yousuf 192, Younis Khan 173
Monty Panesar 3-127, Sajid Mahmood 2-108

England 345
Andrew Strauss 116, Marcus Trescothick 58
Mohammad Sami 3-100, Shahid Nazir 3-32

Pakistan 0-0
Salman Butt 0*, Taufeeq Umar 0*
Matthew Hoggard 0-0

Pakistan require 323 runs to win with 10 wickets in hand.

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