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July 15, 2006
However, it was a fine effort from Pakistan, which has so far been all about clawing back the yards of lost ground from the first two days, but could yet push this Test towards a fascinating conclusion. England's attack - down to four frontline bowlers with Andrew Flintoff's absence - stuck to their task on a pitch that was offering little once the new ball had been negotiated.
Steve Harmison couldn't reproduce the brief burst of fire from yesterday evening when he nabbed two in an over, while Matthew Hoggard's lack of bowling in recent weeks was evident. Liam Plunkett, as against Sri Lanka, improved the more he bowled but Monty Panesar didn't offer Andrew Strauss the controlling option he was looking for. The fielding let England down once when Kevin Pietersen shelled Akmal at cover on 26, before he made amends in the final moments of the day with his first Test wicket. However, for the most part, it was a day for high-class batting.
It doesn't come much classier than Yousuf and Inzamam. The eyes of both batsmen will light up when they know the England bowlers are around the corner - their records stand up with the best. Yousuf's last outing resulted in the small matter of 223 while Inzamam averaged 107 during the winter series and made it eight innings on the bounce with at least a half-century.
Their partnership started early in the day after the regulation removal of Mohammad Sami and ended 42 overs later worth 173. It was Test-match batting of the highest quality with both players barely suffering an alarm; Yousuf's flick just short of midwicket on 82 and Inzamam's flash that took Marcus Trescothick's fingertips at first slip on 17 were the only nervous moments.
Yousuf continued on his merry way and exploited his favourite third-man to cover region. He glided Paul Collingwood's first ball down to third man to reach the hundred off 157 balls, his 17th in Tests. For all his runs against England - this was century No. 3 - his previous two Tests in this country had brought just 85 runs in four innings. But they had been in early season conditions; this was much more to his liking.
Harmison hit back with the second new ball when Abdul Razzaq was undone by extra bounce but he couldn't strike in a cluster to guarantee England a sizeable advantage. Akmal came in at No. 8, ahead of Shahid Afridi, with the recent memory of his last knock against England being 154. Since then his rich form has continued, with two hundreds during India's tour of Pakistan, signalling his arrival as one of the best young players in the world.
He is more orthodox than the likes of Adam Gilchrist or Mahendra Singh Dhoni but possesses the same skill of rattling up runs before the fielding side knows what has happened. In a flurry of offside drives he'd reached fifty in 69 balls, but the curse of many batsmen - the approaching close of play - brought his downfall through a loose poke at Pietersen's exploratory offspin.
England's weary attack will have known of Pakistan's long batting order, but to watch Shahid Afridi striding in at No. 9 will not have filled them with glee. If they can recharge their batteries overnight, and wrap up the innings swiftly, there are enough signs that the pitch could break up on day five. If they don't, with Afridi around, their current lead could soon turn into honours even. Then it really will be game on.
Pakistan - overnight 66 for 3
Mohammad Sami c Jones b Hoggard 0 (68 for 4)
Regulation edge to outswinger
Inzamam-ul-Haq b Plunkett 69 (241 for 5)
Went too far across, hit leg stump
Abdul Razzaq c Jones b Harmison 22 (300 for 6)
Hint of seam movement, extra bounce, squared-up
Kamran Akmal c Jones b Pietersen 58 (399 for 7)
Limp prod to a wide ball, thick edge
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of CricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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