Strauss ton but spinners squeeze

This first Test of a four match series at Lords had a familiar pattern arising with the first three days dominated by batting. However that trend had to come to an end, and on the fourth day Pakistan’s leg spinners, Danish Kaneria and Shahid Afridi, tied the English batsmen down. However, captain Andrew Strauss scored a century which, combined with England’s first innings lead, puts them in a comfortable position.

It could have been different. Pakistan began the day 119 runs behind, with Mohammad Yousuf unbeaten on 185 and the explosive Shahid Afridi, who could easily blast the deficit away in no time, at the crease. However, it wasn’t to be. Afridi never got out of first gear before he lofted Matthew Hoggard to Ian Bell at a slightly deeper than orthodox mid off. His replacement at the crease, Umar Gul lasted just two balls before he edged Hoggard to Geraint Jones behind the stumps. Yousuf’s double ton was now in doubt, but last man Danish Kaneria managed to stay at the crease long enough to see the brilliant Yousuf past the mark.

Not that he lasted long after reaching his double ton. The epic innings of 202 was brought to a close by Steve Harmison combining with Jones to leave England with an 83 run lead.

England’s attempt to build on the lead started steadily, with opening pair Trescothick and Strauss reaching 38 at a decent pace before Trescothick (18) dragged an Umar Gul delivery onto his stumps with a nothing shot – neither playing forwards nor back, but just hanging his bat in the general region the ball was travelling to.

Alistair Cook became Gul’s second victim soon after, skewing a pull to Yousuf at mid off. However, Strauss was still making nice progress with the Pakistan seamers just feeding Strauss’ favoured square cut, and he found an ally in Kevin Pietersen, who reached the mid-twenties fairly quickly, too.

The introduction of Shahid Afridi into the attack helped reduce England’s momentum, though. Bowling in tandem with Kaneria for almost 3 straight hours of cricket, the spinners dried up the runs, extracting extravagent turn and bounce out of the pitch and applying some pressure to the English batsmen, looking to build a lead in quick enough time to allow their bowlers to bowl Pakistan out again. Eventually, Pietersen was frustrated into running down the pitch at a shorter, quicker ball from Afridi, with Kamran Akmal making a nice stumping to remove England’s big hitter for 41 after a useful partnership of 77.

Strauss’ next partner lasted no time at all. Paul Collingwood tried to turn a ball out of the rough into the legside, and learned the dangers of playing against the spin by getting a leading edge to Salman Butt to provide Kaneria with his first.

Ian Bell made a better fist of it. His partnership with Strauss took England past 200, and after grinding out 20, Bell looked to be accelerating, hitting 2 consecutive fours off Afridi. The first one a one bounce four down the ground, followed up by a beautiful cover drive. But then, disaster struck.

Strauss, on 99, pushed the ball into the leg side and set off to bring up his hundred. However, Pakistan’s rotund captain, Inzamam Ul-Haq, with uncharacteristic fleet of foot and athleticism, pounced on the ball at midwicket and threw down the stumps, leaving Bell stranded and out. Bell had hesitated, but there was never a run there and Strauss had become responsible for a suicidal waste of a wicket.

Under-fire Geraint Jones battled hard to support Strauss and prove his critics wrong, but at a time when the aggressive wicketkeeper-batsman would be expected to accelerate for England, he got tied down by Kaneria and succumbed for 17. Then Kaneria landed the big one – Strauss for 128.

Plunkett and Hoggard saw England through to the end of the day with a 341 run lead, well placed to avoid a loss, but abit short on time to bowl pakistan out and win. A well poised game going into the final day.

England 528-9 declared
Paul Collingwood 186, Alistair Cook 105, IR Bell 100 not out
Danish Kaneria 3-119, Abdul Razzaq 2-86

Pakistan 445 all out
Mohammad Yousuf 202, Inzamam-ul-Haq 69
Steven Harmison 4-94, Matthew Hoggard 3-117

England 258-7
Andrew Strauss 128, Kevin Pietersen 41
Danish Kaneria 3-73, Umar Gul 2-57

Leave a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they have been approved

More articles by Sean Bennett