Lacklustre England capitulate

England’s hopes of saving their reputation and retrieving a draw from the Third Test against Pakistan at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore evaporated in the midst of thirteen afternoon overs as Shoaib Akhtar and Danish Kaneria combined to scythe through the tourists’ middle order.

Following Mohammad Yousuf and Kamral Akmal’s 269-run liaison that built Pakistan’s giant first-innings total of 636, England’s chances of winning the Test and with it squaring the series had already disappeared beyond the horizon. At the beginning of the final day’s play, all that the visitors could hope for was three sessions’ batting practice and a degree of honour in the draw.

At lunch, after two hours of reasonably assured resistance from Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell, it seemed beyond doubt that the stalemate would prevail as England reached the lunch interval at 201/2 with both batsmen nearing three figures. After the resumption, however, everything changed.

Inzamam threw the ball to Danish Kaneria and – following an unproductive morning’s containment effort from around the wicket – instructed him to go back over, with instant results. Collingwood again missed out on a Test century, edging to Hasan Raza, before Kevin Pietersen’s inconsistent run continued as he slashed a short, wide ball from the leg spinner to Raza and set the scene for Andrew Flintoff’s subsequent golden duck.

The all-rounder failed to properly read Kaneria’s googly and saw it creep in between bat and pad to disturb the timbers. Geraint Jones was then fortunate to escape becoming the icing on top of a Danish hat trick as Darrell Hair declined a loud LBW appeal – another googly that seemed to strike the England wicket-keeper in line with off stump.

Ian Bell had watched the carnage from the other end but became another statistic as Shoaib Akhtar’s slower ball claimed the second of its three scalps in the innings, striking the Warwickshire batsman – eight runs short of his century – on the back leg in front of middle stump. Geraint Jones’ earlier stroke of luck was cancelled out in spectacular fashion as Rudi Koertzen triggered a leg-before decision following a giant inside edge.

By now, the game was up. English minds and hearts were broken and it was no more than a matter of time before the game was sealed. Yet another slower ball accounted for Liam Plunkett – England constantly struggling to pick up Shoaib’s changes of pace as Plunkett played too early, missed, and was struck plumb on the back leg. It was like playing Brian Lara International Cricket – impossible to pick the slower delivery and pushing tentatively and desperately forwards, hoping you don’t miss it.

Eight down swiftly became ten as Shaun Udal edged Mohammad Sami to Salman Butt at a wide slip position, and Danish finished the job as Matthew Hoggard played all around another googly – England bowled out exactly a hundred runs shy of making Pakistan bat again.

As comprehensive as it was conclusive, Pakistan had sealed the Bank AlFalah Cup by two Tests to none – a scoreline that reflected the home side’s superiority and, critically, their discipline and commitment in the series. With five One-Day Internationals to follow, England have a lot of work to do if they are to return home with anything to show for their two months in Pakistan.

England 288
Paul Collingwood 96, Michael Vaughan 58
Shoaib Malik 3-58, Danish Kaneria 2-47

Pakistan 636-8
Mohammad Yousuf 223, Kamran Akmal 154
Matthew Hoggard 2-106, Liam Plunkett 2-125

England 248
Ian Bell 92, Paul Collingwood 80
Shoaib Akhtar 5-71, Danish Kaneria 4-52

Pakistan won by an innings and 100 runs

Cricket Web Player of the Match
Mohammad Yousuf (Pakistan) – 223

Cricket Web Player of the Series
Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pakistan) – 431 runs @ 107.75

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