Pakistan put game out of reach

Mohammad Yousuf and Kamran Akmal both scored centuries and brought up a record 199 run unbroken stand as England were effectively put out of the game on day 3 at Lahore. The English bowlers were only able to take one wicket in the entire day, and with the Pakistani captain Inzamam Ul Haq still to resume his innings, Pakistan are in a commanding position.

Although the lack of penetration from the England bowlers was clear to see, Harmison and Flintoff worked hard throughout the day, occasionally troubling Akmal and Yousuf when they banged the ball in short. But the two middle order batsmen were equal to the bowling on this flat track, and punished any deliveries that were off line or length, meaning that any pressure that had previously been created was soon released.

Akmal looked in scintillating form throughout the day, attacking the new ball with flair and without fear, anything that Hoggard pitched up soon disappeared to the cover boundary. Akmal was helped by Marcus Trescothick who dropped him on 95, but soon brought up his century by cover driving Plunkett for four; one of nine glorious boundaries hit in his 2nd test 100- a feat that only took him 178 balls. At the end of play he reached 115, poised to continue with Yousuf in the morning having already beaten his previous personal best of 109.

Akmal is quickly becoming a Pakistani hero, adding his century to two fantastic catches in the test. His batting has transformed him from being a tidy keeper to a match-winner, like Gilchrist in many respects.

Yousuf played calmly throughout the morning session, letting Akmal and Shoaib Ahktar hit the boundaries and proving to be a perfect foil early on. But Yousuf suddenly erupted and smashed the despairing Shaun Udal for six to bring up a fine century that confirmed Pakistan’s ascendancy in this match. But it may well have been a different story for the Pakistani’s if Yousuf hadn’t been spilled on 16 yesterday, but he’d played faultlessly since and deserved his century.

Yousuf wasn’t finished though, and he continued to work the ball around and hit the occasional boundary on his way to 150.

He forged ahead by expanding his strokeplay once he passed his 150, driving with the same class and elegance that took him to his 14th test century. He finished on 183 at stumps, with a double century and a new personal best in sight (his previous best was an unbeaten 204).

Ahktar, Pakistan’s nightwatchman, was on top of England’s hit list in the morning. He received a number of quick bouncers from fired up Flintoff and Harmison, but saw through the rough patches and beat his previous personal test score and reached 38 which consisted of 4 fours and 2 sixes before he went for one shot too many and got caught in the covers. The innings had lasted 81 balls spanned over 96 frustrating minutes, and undoubtedly set the tone for Pakistan’s day.

Pakistan’s batting has looked in a different class to England’s throughout the series. The way that the batsmen are waiting to score their runs, rather than forcing the run rate has been one of the reasons why England have found themselves constantly trailing Pakistan. England was so good in the Ashes because they always seemed to be slightly ahead of Australia, but in this series Pakistan have always seemed to come out of a session with a chance, and been able to capitalise when the English batsman have crumbled under pressure, as has happened in the last innings of both previous tests.

So it looks like Pakistan has the game under control. With 5 wickets left in hand, one being Inzamam Ul Haq, England must wrap up the Pakistani innings before Lunch if possible. Any later and Pakistan will have the runs to go for the win, and make the series victory even more pleasing. But with the confidence in the Pakistani camp so high, England has more than a mountain to climb.

England 288 all out
Collingwood 96, Vaughan 58, Trescothick 50
Shoaib Malik 3-58
Pakistan 446-5
Mohammad Yousuf 183*, Kamran Akmal 115*

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