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August 4, 2006
All the main batsmen contributed something to the cause and England's only gripe will be that four of the top six played themselves in without going on. But that is the nature of Headingley; batsmen often say how they rarely feel 'in' at Leeds and the fact it was only a batsman of Pietersen's class who could really dominate suggests batting is not a cakewalk. That shouldn't take anything away from Bell, who was again faultless, and also Chris Read who was under immense pressure on his return to Test cricket.
When Pietersen retired hurt with the total on 259 for 4, if Read had fallen early a decision would have needed to be made as to whether Pietersen returned or the tail was exposed. An inside edge (the bane of Pakistan's day) opened Read's account but then he played confidently with Bell, although it helped that there were six overs of loopy part-time spin.
On another day, though, the outcome would have been very different for Pakistan, who probably won't be exchanging pleasantries with Darrell Hair in the near future. When Pietersen was on 2, he got an inside edge via his pad through to Kamran Akmal but Hair declined the appeal. Pakistan could feel rightly aggrieved with that decision but when Pietersen was 29 they could have no complaints as Shahid Nazir overstepped. They will also feel Pietersen escaped two very close lbw appeals early in his innings, but the fact that he was shelled at midwicket the ball before he retired shows Pakistan didn't help themselves.
The height of Pakistan's frustrations came in the first session despite three wickets before lunch. Shortly after Pietersen's first let-off, Alastair Cook was the beneficiary of a missed inside-edge. Cook couldn't take his second chance and popped a catch back to Umar Gul off the last ball before lunch, but Pakistan would have still been stewing about Pietersen, well aware of the damage he is capable of.
The first half of his innings was about steadying England from 110 for 3 and the recovery began with Paul Collingwood for company, before he disappointingly picked out deep square-leg after a stand of 82 in 22 overs. But, by then, Pietersen had already lit the blue touch paper. One shot, on the up through midwicket with a straight bat, signalled the start of his onslaught. Danish Kaneria soon ended up in the stands and, 44 balls after reaching fifty, Pietersen's now trademark leap accompanied his fifth Test century and third of the summer.
When Salman Butt grassed Pietersen at midwicket on 104 Inzamam just chewed his finger nails but the frustration must have been immense. He will have a sensed a moment of relief when Pietersen's cramp, which had troubled him from when he was in the 90s, forced him off the field for treatment. The problem for Inzamam, as has been throughout the series, is that he had no strike bowler to turn to.
Nazir, in his first Test since March 1999, deserved more than Strauss's wicket but Mohammad Sami was again a major disappointment. However, during the final session Umar Gul backed up his hardwork from Old Trafford with a fine new-ball burst. There was enough in the pitch to keep the seamers interested and Read's late dismissal to one that didn't bounce much indicates that batting won't become any easier.
Pakistan ended with a touch of momentum as Gul squeezed one through Matthew Hoggard's defences. But the thought that will keep them awake tonight is that although Pietersen has left the field once he'll be back in the morning with the serene-looking Bell. Inzamam could be forgiven if he has the odd nightmare.
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of CricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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