The Cook and Bell Story

Twin centuries from the England middle order’s two youngest members, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell, propelled the hosts into a formidable position at the close of the second day’s play.

Resuming overnight on 168 for two, Kevin Pietersen watched Abdul Razzaq loosen up with a wide, and then picked out Imran Farhat at gully. Despite the success of his catch, the Pakistani batsman fractured a finger in the process. Following Pietersen’s departure, Paul Collingwood joined Cook for an hour’s consolidation as England sought to ensure Thursday’s breakthroughs didn’t go to waste.

It was Collingwood who signalled a change of gear as he twice thumped the underwhelming Danish Kaneria for straight sixes, as England built their lead from substantial towards imposing. Cook – after three play-and-misses on 99 against Shahid Afridi, cut past point to bring up his third Test century before the new ball brought a breakthrough for the visitors. Collingwood – seemingly surprised by the sheer inadequacy of the delivery – scooping a dreadful long hop to Mohammad Sami at square leg.

Cook fell soon afterwards, hit on the back pad by Gul – the pick of a lacklustre Pakistan attack – to trigger slow death by Bucknor. Wehn Geraint Jones was pinned LBW by Sami for a desperate, unconvincing eight, England were 321 for six, Pakistan had prised the gate open again and the last guardsman was the less than menacing figure of Ian Bell.

Inzamam and company can’t have been expecting what happened next. For twelve months a choirboy-faced rabbit trapped in the International cricket headlights, all of a sudden Bell looked like he belonged – like Test match cricket was, after all, his rightful place. Saj Mahmood fell for an ugly twelve, looping a leading edge back to Razzaq and Matthew Hoggard fell leg before to Shahid Afridi without offering a shot before Steve Harmison allied with Bell in a ninth wicket stand that added 71.

Bell scored at more than four per over throughout an innings that included thirteen boundaries and one straight six on his way to his fourth – and best – Test hundred. Harmison fell on the reverse sweep to Kaneria, the legspinner’s only wicket at a cost of 106 runs, before England’s declaration came at 461, a lead of 342.

Pakistan survived the four-over mini-session that concluded the day’s play, but – in what could be another unwanted twist to an already injury-ravaged series, Steve Harmison pulled up in his first over in obvious pain. Saj Mahmood took the second over from that end as Harmison – albeit reluctantly – left the field for treatment. In his absence, Pakistan could yet turn this around, but from here it would be little more than cruel on an England side who – finally – are playing for the moment rather than waiting on a return from injury.

Pakistan 119
Younis Khan 44, Mohammad Yousuf 38
Steve Harmison 6-19, Monty Panesar 3-21

England 461-9
Alastair Cook 127, Ian Bell 106*
Umar Gul 3-96, Abdul Razzaq 2-72

Pakistan 12-0
Imran Farhat 9*, Kamran Akmal 2*

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