England fight back

England fought their way back into the second test today after Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen made terrific centuries, but it may well have been a different story if the Pakistani team held onto their catches. At the end of play England are 391 for 7, with Ashley Giles on 23 and Shaun Udal on 6.

The first session is one that most Pakistani spectators would like to forget. Bell had the first slice of luck, as, in the second over of the day, Kamran Akmal missed a stumping chance off Danish Kaneria, the Pakistani leg-spinner who took four wickets to secure Pakistan victory in the first test at Multan. Mohammad Yousef then put down a sitter at slip, and, when Pakistan thought it couldn’t get any worse, Kaneria put down a regulation catch at mid-off, much to the delight of Pietersen.

Pietersen strode through the eighties and nineties with ease, hitting a number of elegant sixes and fours off the hapless Pakistani bowlers, and brought up his century with a six over midwicket. Unfortunately, a ball later, Pietersen went for one big hit too many and holed out in the deep off the bowling of Shoab Ahktar, who was finally getting rewarded for the amount of effort he had showed during the series.

Flintoff came to the crease with little form in this series, and was immediately in trouble against Ahktar. With little foot movement, it was only a matter of time before the fiery Ahktar wiped up Flintoff, and boy did he do it in style, sending the batsman’s off stump cart-wheeling magnificently.

Amidst the carnage, Bell made steady runs, a perfect foil for Pietersen’s explosive innings. He eventually fell for 115 to Shahed Afridi, who was issued a one test and two ODI ban for his antics yesterday, by edging a lazy cut to Kamran Akmal, who held on. But the damage was already done, missed chances had blighted Pakistan’s awful day, and the last thing they needed was a colourful cameo from Geraint Jones.

His innings consisted of 55 runs, 86 balls and 8 boundaries, but ended when one went straight on, trapping Jones who was caught in the crease. Giles was also troubled by Afridi, and was lucky to jam his bat down in time against some of Afridi’s quicker balls, which pitched in the rough he helped create illegally yesterday.

The day belonged to England, but the tourists are still 71 runs adrift, and if the tail gets knocked over cheaply, then Pakistan must still be considered favourites despite the valiant efforts of Pietersen and Bell.

Pakistan 462
Inzamam 109, Afridi 92, Yousuf 78, Harmison 3 for 85

England 391 for 7
Bell 115, Pietersen 100, Naved-Ul-Hassan 2 for 63

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