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August 19, 2010
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.
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