December 10, 2000

Resolute English earn likely draw

Another day of staunch batting by England, this time by the lower order, took them within 17 runs of Pakistan's first innings total of 405 in the third and final Test in Karachi.

Resuming their innings on the fourth morning on 277 for four, they added 111 runs but, significantly, they were able to occupy the crease until tea, which went a long way towards avoiding defeat. With slow batting on the docile pitch, the possibility of a result in this Test has gradually diminished.

Despite losing three wickets for only 71 in their second innings, which gives them a somewhat slender overall lead of 88, Pakistan should be able to increase that substantially tomorrow, leaving England to bat out the remainder of time for an almost inevitable draw. That, in all probability, is likely to be the pattern of play on the last day.

England lost their first wicket today in the opening over when Graeme Hick, without addition to his overnight score of 12, was tempted into the hook shot off Waqar Younis and was caught at square-leg.

But the bigger blow that England suffered was the loss of Michael Atherton an hour later. Content to just stay at the crease, Atherton had scored only eight runs in more than an hour to take his score to 125, when he edged Abdur Razzaq behind the stumps.

It was the end of a magnificent knock from the Lancastrian, spanning well over nine-hours, and was one of so many that he has played for England over the years. Once again he proved to be the rock that has supported the innings while wickets have fallen at the other end.

England were 309 for six, and after Craig White and Ashley Giles had put on thirty, the latter played-on to a ball from Waqar in the third over after lunch. Giles had batted for an hour and White for more than twice that time in scoring 35, before being stumped off leg-spinner Danish Kaneria.

With White's dismissal, England were 345 for eight and although the next wicket, that of Andy Caddick, fell four runs later, England had a valuable last wicket stand. Ian Salisbury remained not out after batting for over two-hours and with Darren Gough, 18 in an hour-and-a-half, put on 39.

Duncan Fletcher was delighted with the partnership. "That was a very important partnership as far as the outcome of this Test is concerned," he said. "They not only put on 39 runs but they took some overs out of the game, which then put a lot of pressure onto Pakistan. If they hadn't batted so well, there would have been another 20-odd overs in the day and they could have set us a fair target tomorrow morning."

Waqar's fine pace bowling gave him four for 88 in 36 overs on an unhelpful pitch, while the two spinners, Saqlain and Kaneria, picked up two each.

After tea, when Pakistan began their second innings, England's pace bowlers removed both openers in quick succession. Gough had Imran Nazir caught behind with 24 on the board, and two runs later, Caddick had Saeed Anwar caught brilliantly, from a hook shot, by Graham Thorpe at long-leg.

Pakistan finally lost their third wicket when Inzamam-ul-Haq, the centurion in the first innings, played no shot at a ball from Giles which he deflected on to his stumps. He had made 27 just before bad light stopped play with 7.3 overs remaining. It was a good ball from Giles, and a fitting way to break Nick Cook's English record (set in 1983-84) of 14 Test wickets in a series in Pakistan.