The Headingley Test Match has come alive and is tantalizingly poised with Pakistan required to get 323 runs in the 90 overs to be bowled tomorrow to level this 4 tests series. It has been an absorbing day of cricket with England getting off to a rollicking start in the morning session and then Pakistan pulling back things through some great bowling. All the Pakistani bowlers chipped in with wickets to bowl out England for 345 in their second innings. The hero for England was mainly Andrew Strauss who stroked his way to a 10th Test Match hundred but without Chris Read’s brilliant half century in the end which had come under pressure, England would have given away a much smaller target.
Pakistan can chase this target of 323 as the pitch has been good for the batsmen with just a bit of assistance for the bowlers. Mohammad Yousuf and Younis khan are in magnificent form, so the chase on the final day’s play should be very exciting. England need to make early inroads to stay in this game otherwise they are gone with the outfield being a quick one and with most short deliveries sitting up to be hit. Monty Panesar could be the key bowler tomorrow, but England may not be having enough fielders around the bat to support him as they have to keep a check on the runs as well. It will be the best test for Andrew Strauss’ captaincy on how he would attack Pakistan besides showing the required caution. The fourth day’s play has been another high scoring one with 342 runs scored in the 87.3 overs bowled with 10 wickets going down indicating that this wicket is a sportive one indeed. So it all boils down to the pressure factor now, the team that keeps its cool should go on to win this match and we are not talking about a draw, which is also a realistic possibility, but looks like nobody is interested in that to happen.
The start of the day wasn’t as nervous as it turned out to be towards the end with England first required to work towards getting into the safety zone of having a huge score on the board. Pakistan came onto the field without their Skipper Inzamam who was suffering from chest pain which was the after effect of yesterday’s awkward fall over his stumps. It was a clear blue sky over Headingley today and the two English openers Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss started to play their shots confidently. Trescothick had an early let off in just the 4th over of the morning with Kamran Akmal grassing down the most simplest of catches after Umar Gul had produced a faint outside edge. Mohammad Sami had a totally different spell this morning as he kept on clocking at around 90mph consistently, something which he couldn’t do in this entire series. The bowling from Pakistan was by no means easy yet the two experienced England openers punished everything that was slightly off in line or length. Runs were coming thick and fast at almost five runs per over which was later brought down by a tidy spell from one change Shahid Nazir. However Pakistan failed in getting the much needed breakthrough before the lunch break as England went to lunch at a solid 121 for no loss with both the openers scoring their half centuries. For Trescothick, it was his first score of fifty in this Series and his innings also contained a handsome lofted off drive for a six in Kaneria’s bowling.
Trescothick couldn’t carry on after lunch for much time as he gambled at playing a cut shot to a wide delivery that was seaming away from Umar Gul. Trescothick (58) got a bottom edge to that and Salman Butt at second slip pulled off a low forward bending catch. England lost its first wicket at 158, which gives them a lead of 135. Danish Kaneria started to produce his magic finally to remove Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen cheaply to reduce England to 214 for 3. Cook (21) was taken at short leg as Kaneria got his leg break to turn sharply and take the inside edge whereas Pietersen (16) was bowled through the bat pad gap by a googly. Kevin Pietersen had started off his innings by launching into Danish Kaneria with a few stunning sweep shots against the turn which had got the bowler to get into a battle of words and glares with him. In the end, Danish Kaneria had the last laugh and the chicken dance which he did to celebrate Pietersen’s departure. Strauss did have those two partnerships with Cook and Pietersen but he had to be careful in seeing that England did not give Pakistan the opportunity to run through their batting line up. The England Skipper could not afford to relax even though he got to his 10th hundred and he too was gone soon leaving England in a spot of bother. It was the last over before the Tea Break that Strauss was dismissed with the left hander caught up in two minds whether to play or leave a short of length delivery from Sami. The batsman decided to leave it but it was rather late as the ball already took the outside edge to get into the keeper’s gloves and that was Tea with England at 237 for 4, a lead of 214. Strauss departed after making a delightful 116, which had come in 171 balls with the help of 16 fours.
In the final session, Pakistan pegged away at the wickets and they even managed to get Ian Bell who is in the form of his life for just 4 runs. Bell was out through a fabulous catch by Kamran Akmal diving low to his left to take the inside edge produced by a Sami delivery that nipped back and kept low. Collingwood kept the England innings going along with the aggressive Chris Read, but it wasn’t for a long time as he got out playing onto his stumps to Shahid Nazir. Collingwood could make just 25 leaving England at 299 for 6 and with that left Chris Read with the lower order. Sajid Mahmood was back in the hut in the same over of Shahid Nazir. After that Matthew Hoggard like he always does, showed the discipline required for a tail ender when he has a specialist batsman at the other end and he supported Chris Read to gather as many runs as possible. Pakistan were getting great amount of reverse swing but they decided to take the second new ball and that worked in their favour with Shahid Nazir getting the extra sting and bounce to force Hoggard to fend his short one in the slips. Harmison played one good shot to get a boundary but he got out soon playing another aerial drive. Chris Read was left with just Monty Panesar and the last pair for England added 13 runs before Read dragged his forcing shot onto his stumps off Mohammad Sami. Pakistan were left to play one over before the close of play which they did through Salman Butt negotiating the six balls from Hoggard.