Younis and Yousuf build

Headingley is usually a ground for the fast bowlers, with seam and swing movement aplenty. While there may be some in this match, scores of 515 and 202-2 show it is the batsmen who are enjoying this Headingley pitch.

One of those batsmen is Ian Bell. He was only expected to play at Lord’s before Flintoff returned from injury. However, Flintoff needed ankle surgery and in his absence, Bell has scored three hundreds in successive matches. 66 overnight, he rode his luck a touch with a couple of edged fours, but neither was catchable. He soon got into his stride, batting with the ease and confidence he has shown throughout this series, a far cry from averaging 17 in last year’s Ashes. His century came from a classy on drive, and he became the first Englishman since Graham Gooch in 1990 to score centuries in three successive Test matches.

Bell was partnered early in the morning by Kevin Pietersen, whom he shared a partnership of 67 with yesterday, before Pietersen retired hurt. They added a further 74 today before Pietersen played one shot too many and holed out to mid-off. Bell tried to take the attack to the bowlers when batting with the tail, lofting Danish Kaneria gloriously straight back over his head. It didn’t last long though, England were eight down when he tried to cut one from the same bowler that kept a little low, and was bowled.

With England in a strong position, Sajid Mahmood and Steve Harmison shared a crowd pleasing partnership of 56. Both played the odd textbook stroke, missed with some agricultural batting. Harmison smashed two sixes off one Shahid Nazir over, he bowled far too short for this pitch. The fun was eventually brought to an end on 515 not long after lunch, an imposing total, especially considering Pakistan’s poor batting display at Old Trafford. Umar Gul was comfortably Pakistan’s best bowler in the innings, and he picked up a deserved five-for when he yorked Mahmood to end the innings.

Pakistan’s openers began steadily, but Taufeeq Umar soon played a poor stroke to Hoggard, which found the edge. Salman Butt soon followed his partner back to the pavilion, he was run out following a poor call from Younis Khan and some sharp work by Kevin Pietersen.

At 36-2, Pakistan badly needed a solid partnership from Younis and Yousuf. They were able to provide one, but had Paul Collingwood held on to a difficult chance at slip from Yousuf, the series could have been all but over by now. Yousuf rode his luck a couple more times, with two more edges in the slip cordon which evaded the best efforts of Andrew Strauss.

Despite this, he and Younis Khan played impressive cricket. Both played crisp drives to the off side, as well as more aggressive leg side strokes when the opportunity arose. They were able to add 166 before the close of play, scoring at a good pace, Yousuf finished on 91 from 129 balls.

The England bowlers didn’t perform as well as they would have liked, the seamers produced the odd good delivery but struggled with line and length. Monty Panesar was England’s best bowler but went wicketless, and Kevin Pietersen’s solitary over was dispatched for 14.

Pakistan are in a good position, but still trail by more than 300 runs. If England can take wickets early tomorrow, the match is theirs for the taking. If they don’t we could see another mammoth score from Mohammad Yousuf and the match coasting to a draw.

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

Pakistan 202-2
Mohammad Yousuf 91*, Younis Khan 66*
Matthew Hoggard 1-43

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