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August 5, 2006
Bell dominated the morning session, despite the return of Kevin Pietersen following the bout of cramp yesterday evening, and his fifth Test century came off 172 balls. After centuries at Lord's and Old Trafford he became the first English batsman since Allan Lamb, against West Indies in 1984, to score centuries in three consecutive Tests of a series, and the first since Graham Gooch in 1990 to do it against any opponents. Not bad for a man who wasn't meant to be here.
Such was England's momentum after 141 runs came in the first two hours, then the early removal of Taufeeq Umar and Salman Butt, that another Pakistan horror show was on the cards. But Bob Woolmer spoke of this team's battling qualities before the match and Younis and Yousuf produced the evidence with an unbroken stand of 166 in 40 overs.
They are still a long way behind in the match and the draw that would keep them in with a chance of levelling the series at The Oval will be their primary objective. However, even that could have been out of reach if Paul Collingwood had managed to cling onto a low chance to his right, at third slip, while Yousuf was on 5 and playing himself in against Steve Harmison. Pakistan would have been 42 for 3 with Inzamam-ul-Haq facing a relatively new ball. Yousuf followed a similar path to Pietersen, in that he flirted with danger more than once in his innings - an edge flying over second slip on 21 and through the vacant third on 31 - as his fifty came off 58 balls. Pakistan will feel they are due a change of luck.
Younis, who is virtually a third opener given the frailties of the various opening pairs Pakistan have tried, reproduced his Old Trafford form when he arrived following Umar's wasteful waft at Matthew Hoggard. However, his one major indiscretion cost Pakistan their second wicket when he set off for a risky single, to Pietersen at point, and Butt couldn't make his ground. But he didn't let it affect him and took 80 balls over his fifty.
But through the efforts of their batsmen England have plenty of runs in the bank and Bell was responsible for 119 of the best of them. His century maintained the team's 100 percent conversion rate of fifties to hundreds this series as he started the day on 66 and gave another display of his crisp, clean strokeplay. After being seen as the dispensable asset just three weeks ago, now he's going to be incredibly hard to drop.
With Bell comfortably through to three figures and England past 400, Pietersen cut loose but got carried away and was taken by deep mid-off. Danish Kaneria finally picked up a wicket in his 29th over when Bell tried to give himself room but Pakistan's frustration threshold was pushed again as Mahmood and Harmison flung the bat. The fifty stand came up in 38 balls, with Harmison twice hooking Shahid Nazir into the crowd, before Umar Gul claimed a deserved fifth wicket and England were bowled out for the first time in the series.
Pakistan were one poor innings, and in truth one catch from Collingwood, away from probably waving goodbye to the series. However Yousuf, like Pietersen, is not a batsman who often fails to make the most of a second life, and his team live to fight another day.
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of CricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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