Yousuf Racks Up Another Ton

In the midst of a damp and gloomy day at the Oval, the England fast bowlers sent out worrying distress signals and Pakistan’s batsman gorged themselves to move into a 163 run lead.

With only two-thirds of the allotted overs possible, Mohammad Yousuf continued his run of awesome form, running up another century to take his series total to a mammoth 618 runs. He was well supported by Mohammad Hafeez and Imran Farhat as Pakistan’s openers finally clicked, with both also looking set for hundreds before dismissals in the nineties.

Again the start was delayed by heavy overnight rain – play did not recommence until half an hour after the scheduled resumption – but Farhat was swiftly into his stride against a lacklustre attack. The left hander was particularly dominant outside his off-stump, where he has often been found wanting throughout the series. This time he cracked several fluent cover-drives en route to an eye-catching 91, edging Matthew Hoggard to first slip.

Hafeez, resuming his innings after retiring hurt yesterday with a pulled leg muscle, then provided able support for the remorseless Yousuf, the pair batting throughout the remainder of the morning and a weather-hit afternoon session. The England pacemen, none of whom looked remotely near in form, strayed short and fed Yousuf’s favoured cut stroke. Monty Panesar was not the threat that he has been in previous Tests, yet provided some stability to counterbalance the wayward seamers.

It had been suggested that Hafeez was playing both as a last throw of the dice and to gain some form ahead of the one-day series, but instead looked much more at home than any of the regular Test openers have done this summer. The stroke played to bring up his fifty was a patent example of his talent: a punched off-drive against Panesar which effortlessly the ropes. England’s fielding was dire throughout. Mishaps and fumbles abounded; the hapless Panesar spilt a catch at fine-leg off Hafeez; and Alastair Cook made a schoolboy error on the boundary to gift Pakistan another four runs.

Yousuf moved from 94 to 106 in a single Collingwood over, smashing three fours through cover. Throughout the summer he has displayed all the virtues of a truly great batsman: feather-light balance, intense concentration, mouth-watering strokeplay and an appetite for colossal amounts of runs. Shortly after Yousuf moved to three figures, his partner chipped slightly lazily to Strauss at mid-wicket off Hoggard for 95; their partnership worth 177.

England took the new ball immediately, which promptly disappeared down the leg-side for five wides – Steve Harmison the guilty culprit. Rain and bad light had caused a lengthy interruption earlier in the day, towards the end of the afternoon session, and when the light was offered to Inzamam he graciously accepted it. Yousuf finished unbeaten on 115, with his captain two not out and the total on 336 for three. In such a dominating position for the first time in the series, Pakistan will now aim to rack up a massive score – something in excess of 500 looks likely – and give themselves sufficient time to skittle England again. It’s a back-to-the-wall effort for the home side right now, and there is little doubt Duncan Fletcher will want to up his team’s as yet tepid showing before the Australians start licking their chops too enthusiastically.

England 173
Alistair Cook 40, Andrew Strauss 38
Mohammad Asif 4-56, Umar Gul 4-46

Pakistan 336-3 in 82 overs
Imran Farhat 91, Mohammad Hafeez 95, Mohammad Yousuf 115*
Matthew Hoggard 2-79, Sajid Mahmood 1-74

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