June 2, 2001

Both sides fighting hard - it's evenly poised

Building on a small lead of 46 runs, Pakistan ended the day with an overall lead of 133 with 7 wickets in hand ready to resume on Day 4, weather permitting.

The lead was possible after a miraculous collapse by England's lower order engineered by the pair of Abdur Razzaq and Saqlain Mushtaq. In a magical spell of bowling they routed out the last 5 batsmen in a span of 9 runs.

Pakistan then started their 2nd innings with the unwise strategy of trying to pile up quick before close of play. This rashness caused the loss of 3 wickets with only 63 runs on the board. No means an encouraging start in a test that had swung their way and with a win needed to square the series. The change of attitude brought about by Inzamam's arrival, to play carefully in test match style, saved Pakistan from losing more wickets. He played a very responsible innings raising the score to 87 when play was called off for bad light then abandoned for the day due to rain.

Earlier, Day-3 of the 2nd npower Test started delightfully for England as Graham Thorpe completed his 9th century in 68 tests with s fiery drive to the point boundary.

Overnight partners Graham Thorpe and Michael Vaughan continued playing brisk strokes all round the wicket and Vaughan hoisted his maiden century in test cricket in a peculiar fashion. He drove Azhar Mahmood to backward point for 2 but a wild overthrow by Wasim Akram crossed the rope at mid-wicket, giving him 4 more, a `rolling six'.

All morning the Pakistani bowlers toiled hard to achieve a break-through. The two W's bowled their hearts out with the new ball taken at 267 but reward came in a different manner. Graham Thorpe was run out after playing a marvelous innings of 138 on a direct throw from Wasim Akram off his own bowling.

Vaughan followed quickly, offering a catch to Rashid Latif off a Waqar Younis bouncer after scoring an invaluable 120. His exit brought England down to 283 for 4. The fall of these two giants had then brought Pakistan back into the game, just a little, after long frustration but the drama was to follow.

Alec Stewart and Ian Ward who took over from the two centurions were just in the process of settling down when Azhar Mahmood ran out Ward on a splendid throw from the deep putting England at 309 for 5. With newcomers on the crease, the tempo of scoring came down too.

The safe, slow and steady style of batting adopted by the England batsmen indicated they were perhaps not pushed for time. The objective appeared to be playing a long innings to ensure a draw. Since things don't always go as planned, the complexion of the game changed all of a sudden.

Abdur Razzaq a gentle-paced bowler who was not allowing the batsmen much liberty struck like thunder. He caused the exit of Nick Knight at 248 and paved the way for a procession.

One could not imagine England's tail to be as fragile as it proved. The batsmen seemed to be in some sort of a panic. Dominic Cork, Andy Caddick, Darren Gough and last man Mathew Hoggard, all found safe passage back to the pavilion one after the other, within a span of 9 runs.

Abdur Razzaq and Saqlain Mushtaq who had toiled for about 100 overs without a scalp, turned into demons all of a sudden demolishing England's lower half with unexpected ease. Alec Stewart with 39 excellent runs played responsibly but was left stranded.

England was all out for 357 giving Pakistan a lead of 46. With 3 wickets Razzaq was the chief tormentor while Waqar and Saqlain claimed 2 apiece.

Pakistan, perhaps rejoicing at England's collapse, adopted a flawed strategy, more like one-day match style and paid the price. Openers Saeed Anwar (12) and Abdur Razzaq (22) were wiped out with the total at 41. Playing rash and unimaginative strokes both of them threw away their wickets. Inzamam's arrival at the crease, however, brought some sanity to the batting.

Credit must be given to England's pace attack for their aggressive bowling keeping the batsmen checked as well as under pressure. They met with their 3rd success by ousting Faisal Iqbal (14) glancing a ball for a brilliant take by Stewart the total of 63. This young man's weakness against the short rising ball was fully exposed and he does need to correct this flaw.

Old Trafford's favorite gift of rain came to dictate terms again and play was called off for the day with Pakistan at 87 for 3. Inzamam was holding on with a solid 25. There are two full days to go and Pakistan will need to put up some runs briskly if they think they can bowl out England again. Let's not forget the vagaries of weather that may further reduce the time available to them.

Pakistan go to day 4 with an overall lead of 133 runs but will need a lead of well over 300 on this wicket to stand a chance of forcing a win in the remaining time.