England began day three with the score on 207-5 after a late brace the night before from Pakistan ruined what would have been an excellent day. 50 runs behind, England looked to pile on as big a lead as possible. With Ian Bell and Matt Prior at the crease, and a strong tail-end to come, a lead of more 100 runs didn’t look out of sight.
The day began for a slice of luck for both England batsmen. Prior was dropped on the boundary by Junaid Khan after top-edging a sweep off of Ajmal and Bell was dropped by Rehman, only for the ball to run away for a boundary. However, Prior’s luck didn’t last long. With the score at 227, Ajmal trapped the England keeper LBW for just 3. Stuart Broad joined Ian Bell at the crease, with England still 30 runs behind Pakistan.
Broad played a typical counter-attack innings taking the charge to Pakistan, including clattering Saeed Ajmal for two excellent boundaries in the same over. Taking England into the lead 6 wickets down, Bell and Broad continued to consolidate. Pakistan took the new ball with the score at 260-6. It was the new ball that broke the partnership, as Umar Gul returned to remove Bell LBW for a hard fought 29. 268-8.
Swann joined Broad and took the same attacking mentality. Broad was let off early in the partnership, after a close run-out shout. The third umpire gave the decision not out, but there wasn’t much in it. They continued their positive play, scoring at close to a run a ball. Swann scored a quick fire 15 before Rehman’s straighter ball traps him right in front of his stumps. Anderson and Broad guided England to lunch with the score at 327-8, with Broad notching up an impressive and important 58.
Broad couldn’t add to his score after the break as Jimmy Anderson and Monty Panesar were dismissed in consecutive deliveries by Hafeez. Broad and the tail had taken to England to a lead of 70. A tough task for Pakistan to recover from the deficit and gain a big enough lead to trouble England. England’s spinners would have a big role to play in deciding the fate of the game.
And boy did they make an impact. After Anderson and Broad got very little reward from the new ball, up stepped Monty Panesar. With the score on 29, Panesar made the impact hitting the dangerous Hafeez on the pad. After a big shout, umpire Oxenford raised the finger giving England the required breakthrough. Swann found the gap between Taufeeq Umar’s bat and pad to bowl him for just 7. England were looking dominant, leading by 41 runs and having dismissed both openers.
Swann and Panesar continued with an excellent spell of bowling with the spinning ball, troubling both Azhar Ali and Younus Khan. It was Panesar who bowled the delivery of the day to dismiss Khan, pitching the ball and spinning it passed the outside edge, hitting the top of off-stump. A truly unplayable delivery that removed Pakistan’s most experienced batsman. A short period of consolidation took Pakistan to tea just 16 runs behind.
England looked in a dominant position at tea and that got better straight after. Once again, Monty Panesar wrapped a Pakistan batsman on the pad and the umpire raised the finger. The skipper, Misbah ul-Haq, was the man out this time and Pakistan looked in trouble at 54-4. The wicket bought Asad Shafiq to the crease to join the battling Azhar Ali.
The young pair showed excellent temperament to battle through the tough conditions, setting up a solid base for a partnership. As they got past England’s total, they looked to press on to set a lead. The pair kept their heads in the conditions and, despite some close calls, remained unbeaten at the close of play with the score at 125-4. Pakistan lead by 55. With a partnership of 71, Ali and Shafiq have bought Pakistan back into a game that looked dead.
Today was most definitely England and Monty’s day, but the contribution of Stuart Broad cannot be ignored. The all-rounders partnerships with Bell, Swann and Anderson have set England up into a position to win the game and level the series. The key for England in the morning will be breaking the partnership of Ali and Shafiq to expose the fragile tail of Pakistan. England will not be wanting to chase anything over 200 on a spinning wicket with Ajmal, Hafeez and Rehman in the Pakistan attack.
England still have the edge for me. What do you think? Comment below or on Twitter @naspearing.