England v Pakistan, 3rd npower Test, The Oval, 2nd day August 19, 2010

Swann's milestone and Yousuf's shining example


Standard-setter of the day
Mohammad Yousuf's first Test innings for seven months was shorter than he had intended, and actually led to a drop in his formidable average against England, but in every other respect it was a shining example of batting at the highest level. At the start of his knock, with the ball jagging under heavy cloud cover, he looked tentative and, dare one say it, old, as he struggled through 14 deliveries before getting off the mark with a single to mid-on. But unlike his less experienced team-mates, who had clung on without pushing on at Edgbaston, Yousuf used every ball faced to gauge the pace of the wicket. By the time he reached a half-century for the 57th time in 89 Tests, he was right back at the top of his game, with Steven Finn leaking four fours in ten balls to the first true great he's ever encountered.

Dismissal of the day
Graeme Swann's eventful week continued apace, with the drama of his late inclusion in the ICC Cricketer of the Year long-list keeping the press box entertained over lunch. But the true highlight of his day came in the second hour after the break, when he justified that backtrack with the scalp that England needed above all others. For all his composure, at no stage had Yousuf looked entirely in command against Swann, by whom he was limited to seven singles from 30 balls faced, and on 56, he attempted a rare shot of aggression but succeeded in looping a simple return catch straight back to the gleeful bowler. It was the 100th wicket of Swann's Test career, and it had come in his 23rd match, a rate matched by, among others, Derek Underwood and Shane Warne. On the evidence he's shown in his career to date, he's worthy of being mentioned in such company.

Mix-up of the day
It's not been a happy summer for the Akmal brothers. Kamran was made the scapegoat for Pakistan's trouncing in Nottingham and dropped for the second Test, while Umar's status as his nation's next big prospect had been undermined by a tally of 101 runs in eight Test innings against Australia and England. But today he was knuckling down to produce his best and most timely innings yet - for once his natural flamboyance was ideally suited to the circumstances as he clobbered four fours and a six to build on the platform set by his team-mates and push Pakistan into a first-innings lead. But no sooner had he dabbed Paul Collingwood through backward point for that landmark boundary, he pushed off for a non-existent single to extra cover, and was barely in the frame as Eoin Morgan's shy hit the base of the stumps. Umar was gone for 38 from 50 balls, and England had an opening into the lower-middle order.

Drop of the day
After producing some of the cleanest catching imaginable in the first two Tests of the series, England weren't entirely at the races today. Morgan dropped a sitter at backward point when Salman Butt was still stuck on his series average of 4, but the costlier error came at the opposite end of the day, when Andrew Strauss - doubtless contemplating the challenge of batting through to the close - let the No. 11 Mohammad Asif slip through his fingers at first slip. It was a low but regulation nick, and had it been taken, Pakistan's lead would have been a modest 45. Instead, Asif and the excellent Azhar Ali biffed and bashed 30 bonus runs in 7.2 overs, to haul their total past 300 for the first time in the series.

Breakthrough of the day
All of the focus going into England's second innings had been on Alastair Cook, whose grim form this series has left his place at the top of the order in serious jeopardy ahead of next week's fourth Test at Lord's. But it was the man at the other end, Strauss, who ended up being found out in the gloaming, as Mohammad Amir had him snaffled at slip. It was the fourth time in six innings that Strauss had been nailed by Amir, and just as at Nottingham, he lasted a mere three balls in the second innings. Amir has now struck in the first over of an innings for the seventh time in 13 Tests, not to mention twice in 18 ODIs, and seven times in 18 Twenty20s. As for Cook, he made it to the close on 0 not out. And if he needs inspiration going into a pivotal third day, he could do worse than examine the effort of his predecessor at the top of the order, Marcus Trescothick, over in Colchester.

Cameo of the day
Wahab Riaz demonstrated a temperament for the big occasion in claiming five wickets on debut on Wednesday, and having declared the Oval wicket to be a "batting paradise", he set about proving his wisdom of his own words as he made a nuisance of himself for most of the morning as nightwatchman. He was utterly unfazed by the second-ball loss of his overnight partner, Yasir Hameed, and showed a sound technique and a willingness to engage in banter as he endured for 75 deliveries before finally succumbing to the first ball of a new spell from Swann. And he's not the first, and nor will he be the last, man to suffer that fate.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mohammed on August 20, 2010, 12:16 GMT

    Diomond always glitter even if its in the box or outside ...thats what Mohammed Yousuf is and infact he showed that in his classy innings...i am sure it would get better and better and b4 he leaves england we would love to see 200 frm him......Azher Ali showed the temperment to occupy the crease and looks promising and could b the back bone for paks middle order in future...all the best

  • DINESH on August 20, 2010, 10:49 GMT

    On the comments of Dashgar, 300 is definitely a milestone. Out of 11 Pak players only 3 players are experienced. In the remaining 8 players 4 players are almost deubtants. Taking a lead of 75 runs against a furture No.1 team is a commendable performance. As regards Yousuf's batting really the experience counts. You see the 3rd test between India and Sri Lanka. On the fifth day pitch Laxman and Tendulkar scored century and fifty respectively and secured a win. Instead of Sachin and Laxman, assume if Raina and Yuvraj were playing what would be the result, India lose the match by 150 runs. Experience counts always. The batting of Yousuf and Azhar Ali should be appreciated. With highly inexperienced team Pakisan is improving a lot. 1st test was one sided and lost by huge margin. In the 2nd test they have given fight and threatened England. In the 3rd test, they are in a winning position. In the fourth test Innings defeat for England. Wait and see. I forgot to say I am from India

  • Dummy4 on August 20, 2010, 9:58 GMT

    The PCB selection council have done a GREAT job bringing on Mohammad Yousaf and Yasir Hameed, and also in giving in Wahab Riaz an oppurtunity, but they also should have included Younis Khan, Hammad Azam and Zulqarnain Haider. The above three could perfectly replace The Akmal Bros. (until they get in form) and Imran Farhat.

  • Dummy4 on August 20, 2010, 9:31 GMT

    pakistan is in a state of being at top in this 3rd test match and the credit goes to wahab,yousaf and azhar.

  • Khalid on August 20, 2010, 7:45 GMT

    I quite agree with wierd99. The batting looked pretty settled except Imran Farhat who has really not come up good despite being given a long run of 13 test matches, Imran seems like he is not at all concerned about his dismal performance. Why should he be, he knows that he will not be dropped because he happens to be the son in law of Ilyas (former openor of Pakistan who is now a blue eyed person of the big BUTT of PCB). He will keep his spot intact until the big BUTT gets the boot.

  • Premkumar on August 20, 2010, 6:36 GMT

    @Anubis, thats the 57th time yousuf gone past 50 run marks (it includes 24 centuries as well

  • Dummy4 on August 20, 2010, 6:01 GMT

    it was a good knock by azhar ali.. one which will give him a tremendous boost and one which has helped pakistan to get into a winning position.. i hope alastair cook does even a fourth of what trescothick has achieved up in Colchester.. A 50 would give him a tremendous lift! Ajmal will be expected to do a Swann but Im sure pakistan will rely more on their seamers! Looks like we have got a great test match in our hands! I'd still back England!

  • Asad on August 20, 2010, 4:47 GMT

    Andrew, the stats on cricinfo says Yousuf has scored 32 fifties in 88 tests. Whereas, you wrote 57 in 89 tests. Is the record not updated on the website?

  • Tim on August 20, 2010, 4:05 GMT

    All this praise for Pakistan making 300 is a bit like when Bangladesh get praised for not losing by an innings. 300 on the second day of a test match is not good enough. Yousef going out for 56 is not a great score, its only just above his average. Pakistan are ahead in this match because of their brilliant bowling (and Englands poor batting), if their batting was half as good as people are saying it was they'd still be batting tomorrow.

  • Zafar on August 20, 2010, 2:01 GMT

    Pakistan seems to be a much better batting unit with this line up although I still have concerns about Farhat on the top.

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