Pakistan seal victory in tense finish
Pakistan 308 and 148 for 6 (Butt 48, Yousuf 33, Swann 3-50) beat England 233 and 222 (Cook 110, Amir 5-52, Ajmal 4-71) by four wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
From being down and out two weeks ago Pakistan kept the series alive but not without a few frayed nerves as they had to overcome a late wobble before securing a four-wicket victory at The Oval. During a tension-filled afternoon session outstanding bowling from James Anderson and Graeme Swann threatened to turn the match of its head, in an example of Test cricket at its compelling best, before Umar Akmal and Mohammad Amir carried their side over the line.
Amir, having played a match-winning role with the ball as he claimed 5 for 52, showed calmness beyond his 18 years as he and Umar, a player not known for his restraint, struck a pressure-relieving boundary apiece after England had suffocated the scoring. Umar eventually tucked the winning single past short fine-leg to end the home side's six-Test winning sequence.
At lunch Pakistan needed 33 with seven wickets in hand and Mohammad Yousuf was entrenched at the crease. However, having shown a positive mindset during the opening session Pakistan went into their shells after the break and the scoring dried up. Azhar Ali's run out sparked the wobble as he chanced a single to midwicket and was well short as Swann helped the ball onto the stumps. Seven runs later Yousuf received one of the balls of the series as Anderson uprooted the off stump with a yorker which straightened past the outside edge.
Back in January, at Sydney, it was Yousuf's dismissal that began their fateful collapse and for a while it looked like history would repeat itself. The Akmal brothers are known as shot-makers but couldn't break the shackles as England sensed a chance. Kamran Akmal's struggles with the bat continued when he padded up to Swann at which stage Pakistan still needed 16 then five consecutive maidens were strung together to ratchet up the tension.
However, despite the late scare this was a remarkable success for Pakistan who, barring half the third day at Edgbaston, had barely given England a challenge in the opening two games. That changed here, though, as the batting resolve was stiffened by Yousuf's comeback and the bowling attack was finally supported by some far safer catching.
It was the combined performance of Amir and Saeed Ajmal the previous evening that set up the victory as they hustled though England's batting order once Alastair Cook departed for 110. Amir became the youngest player to collect a five-wicket haul in England when he ended England's second innings with the fourth ball of the morning as Stuart Broad clubbed his pull to mid-on to complete a collapse of 7 for 28.
It meant the momentum remained firmly in Pakistan's court, although England struck back quickly when Yasir Hameed edged his first ball to second slip where Swann held on at the second attempt. Anderson was fired up by the success, but England wasted the new ball while Andrew Strauss set some odd fields which allowed easy singles.
Farhat led the chase with an aggressive innings which immediately put the bowlers on the back foot. He twice upper-cut the quicks over the slips and also thumped Swann's third ball just over the head of mid-on. It was a calculated gamble, but ensured Pakistan made rapid inroads into the small target.
Farhat's positive mindset almost went too far when he came down the pitch at Steven Finn and inside edged past leg stump and he fell moments later against Swann when he went for an expansive sweep and was plumb lbw. It left the innings in Salman Butt's charge and the Pakistan captain played his best hand of the series with a calm, mature approach.
He has been an impressive leader throughout the series, but scores of 1, 8, 7, 0 and 17 were adding the pressure of a challenging role. This time, though, he put those problems behind him and became increasingly fluent as the target came into view. He took three boundaries off an over from Broad who persisted with bowling outside off stump which fed Butt's cut shot.
He took the target below 50 before edging Swann to slip and he will have known in the back of his mind that the job wasn't finished. While Yousuf remained in the middle it was all under control for Pakistan but, in similar style to their victory against Australia at Headingley, the final push for victory proved the hardest. Again, though, a young side dug deep and it sets up a mouth-watering finale at Lord's next week.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo