England are fighting it out in their second innings at The Oval as they closed the third day’s play at a solid 78 for 1 in 18 overs. They now trail behind Pakistan by 253 runs. It was yet another truncated day with more than 30 overs lost. There were quite a few rain and bad light interruptions throughout the day’s play and England had infact bounced back after one such breaks to restrict Pakistan’s first innings total to 504. Mohammad Yousuf for once couldn’t carry on to score a big hundred and he ended up with 128. Faisal Iqbal made an unbeaten 58 to stretch Pak’s first innings total. It was a good spell of bowling from Harmison and Hoggard today to help England put the brakes on Pakistan. In the end, Harmison picked up four and Hoggard picked up three wickets. England in their reply have lost the out of form Marcus Trescothick to Mohammad Asif and Asif is the bowler to watch out for England. He is indeed the thorn in the flesh for the batsmen as almost every delivery of his has some sort of impact on the batsmen.
The homeside is taking all the inspiration from the large crowd that had been pepping them up to get back in the game. However they are way behind Pakistan in the game and it would require a couple of great innings from its batsmen to pull them out of the woods. The weather will always play its part to annoy Pakistan. The visitors’ progress this morning was hampered by two breaks and that had got Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam play some aggressive shots to take the game ahead. At Lunch, Pakistan had moved onto 369 for 2 with rain interfering in the 94th over. There was more rain after lunch and once play resumed, Hoggard and Harmison got on top of their game to bowl some testing deliveries. Inzamam had to succumb to one such delivery that had forced him to play and the extra bounce and seam movement from Harmison forced a nick to the slips. The Pakistan Skipper fell for 31 and that ended a calming 54-run partnership for the 4th wicket. In the next over, Hoggard complimented Harmison by bowling a beautiful outswinger that had enticed a drive from Yousuf away from his body and it was a catch for the keeper. Yousuf’s 128 had come in 236 balls with 18 boundaries.
Kamran Akmal’s indifferent form with the bat continued and he got out playing a loose stroke off a seaming delivery from Harmison to leave Pakistan at 398 for 6. Shahid Nazir joined Faisal Iqbal and both batsmen were taking Pak to almost Tea but for Nazir getting dismissed just at the stroke of Tea playing an ambitious pull off Sajid Mahmood. Pakistan slipped down to 444 for 7 at the break with Faisal Iqbal progressing well on 30. After the break, he got decent support from Umar Gul and Danish Kaneria to stretch Pakistan’s lead further. Monty Panesar took the wicket of Umar Gul and Harmison took the remaining two wickets leaving Faisal Iqbal stranded on 58.
Pakistan had taken a 331-run lead which was a massive one and they got off to an excellent start with the ball with Asif nailing Trescothick. Mohammad Asif had bowled one from wide of the crease from over the stumps to force the left hander to play at his slanting across delivery and the resulting edge was taken well by Kamran Akmal. Strauss and Cook then fought extremely hard against some quality bowling to see England through with just the one wicket loss. Pakistan were a bowler short in Shahid Nazir who couldn’t bowl as he had got a painful blow while batting against Steve Harmison. So the cricket in this Test Match is looking to be high class with the English batsmen battling it out to keep their fans happy against the probing Pakistani attack. We will have to see if Kevin Pietersen can make any amends or not following his first ball duck in the first innings. But for now, Pakistan are the favourites as Mohammad Asif is blossoming into a bowler of Glenn McGrath’s caliber.