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England vs Pakistan, 1st npower Test Day 3: Prior Ton Puts England In Control

By on August 1, 2010

Pakistan 182 (Gul 65*, Anderson 5-54) and 15 for 3 (Farhat 6*, Aamer 0*) trail England 354 and 262 for 9 dec (Prior 102*, Gul 3-41) by 419 runs…

England ended the third day at Trent Bridge in total control of the match and poised to seal a massive win, having reduced Pakistan to 15 for 3 in a highly improbable chase of 435. Matt Prior’s third Test hundred allowed the hosts to declare at 262 for 9, setting Pakistan a world-record target that quickly appeared out of reach.

Once Prior had passed his milestone, Andrew Strauss immediately called the batsmen from the field, leaving Pakistan’s openers to face a tricky final passage of play with no clear goal in mind other than survival. But even that task proved too challenging, and three top-order batsmen were ripped out in the space of seven deliveries to virtually put paid to Pakistan’s slim hopes of saving this match.

Salman Butt started positively with two boundaries behind point in Stuart Broad’s first over, but then slashed awkwardly at the first ball of his second to send a stinging chance to Paul Collingwood at third slip. Azhar Ali lasted all of two balls before he was trapped in front of the stumps by Broad, and Umar Amin soon followed him back as he failed to counter James Anderson’s prodigious swing.

Whatever advantage Pakistan had gained in reducing England to 98 for 6 before tea evaporated in the final session, as Prior added 49 with Graeme Swann and 56 for the eighth wicket with Broad before bringing up his first hundred since March 2009 in Steven Finn’s company.

Pakistan had battled gamely for much of the first two sessions to stay afloat in the game, Umar Gul crashing three sixes off Finn in a frenetic first four overs to take his side’s score to 182. They avoided the follow-on, before Gul’s 35-run tenth-wicket partnership with Mohammad Asif – towards which Asif made no contribution – was ended by some confused calling and an easy run-out.

After Asif and Mohammad Aamer nipped out both openers to have England at 49 for 2 at lunch, Gul then knocked the stuffing out of the middle order with three wickets in four overs. Pakistan have often been guilty of not backing up their intensity with the ball with similar commitment in the field, and once again their fielding effort was a frustrating mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous.

Aamer made the initial breakthrough when he found the edge of Andrew Strauss’s bat to send a regulation chance towards Umar Akmal at second slip. Umar could not hold on at the first attempt, snatching at the ball a second time to parry it over first slip, only for none other than Kamran to slide in and take a superb reaction catch.

After Alastair Cook’s scratchy knock was ended with an edge down the leg side to Asif’s worst ball of the morning, Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott put together a steady 47 for the third wicket before Pietersen departed thanks to a stunning catch behind the wicket from Kamran. A thick inside edge appeared to be heading for the fine leg boundary but Pakistan’s much-maligned keeper leapt athletically to his left to pluck the ball out of the air one-handed.

As Kamran lay on the turf, double-checking that, yes, this one had stuck, he appeared to take a brief moment to himself, visibly relaxing as the relief flooded through him. With four catches safely pouched, it looked like this might be Kamran’s day, but the very next delivery brought back all the frustration that his inconsistent work behind the stumps has wrought.

Collingwood aimed a noncommittal waft at his first ball to send a much easier chance than that off the previous delivery, sailing towards first slip, but Kamran dived across and snatched at the ball, which bobbled out of the glove as he came – both literally and metaphorically – crashing back down to earth.

Gul made sure the lapse was not too costly by castling Trott with one that kept low and in his next over he pinged Collingwood on the back pad, but with the sun peeping out from behind a thick bank of cloud for the first time in the day, Eoin Morgan and Prior nudged England’s total towards 100, and the lead past 250.

After Morgan was run out for 17, Swann kept the runs flowing, although Gul exposed his weakness against the short ball with a sharp, well-directed bouncer that struck a clanging blow on the back of the helmet. Swann had already taken a four and a six off Kaneria to run to an enterprising 28, but he appeared to lose focus after the blow and in the spinner’s next over he was rapped on the pad in front of leg stump. Pakistan thought they had a wicket; Tony Hill disagreed, but judicious use of a referral by the visitors saw the decision overturned and Swann departed.

Broad swung merrily on his way to 24 from 29 balls before Malik had him caught at slip but Pakistan’s celebrations were muted by the fact that England’s lead had inflated to 375 by that point, already 60 more than their highest ever successful fourth-innings chase. Anderson managed to avoid a king pair after his first-ball dismissal on Thursday, but top-edged a sweep off the fourth ball he faced to give Malik his second wicket.

Prior took England’s lead past 400 with his seventh boundary, a flat-batted pull through square leg off Kaneria, and entered the 90s with two sixes in the arc between long-on and deep midwicket in the spinner’s next over. He slowed down somewhat as he approached the century, creeping to 99 with a series of singles as Finn steadfastly dead-batted almost every delivery he received, but Prior eventually reached what should be a match-winning ton with a cut for three behind point.

With conditions still favouring the bowlers despite the late afternoon sunshine, Strauss immediately declared and unleashed Broad and Anderson on Pakistan’s shaky line-up. England finished the day needing seven wickets in six sessions, and they were overwhelming favourites to go 1-0 up in the series on Sunday.

Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPN Cricinfo

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