With 285 remaining are Pakistan in a happy position?
The day did belong to Pakistan for offering England a massive victory target of 370 but by close today, 85 of them had been smartly made up for no loss. Atherton (30) and Trescothick (48) were well dug in and some over aggressive field placing gave the openers the liberty of piling these up in just 22 overs. England still has a long chase ahead of them to grab the remaining 285, for chasing a large target in the 4th innings is always considered a bit dicey in a test.
In a day full of tension and excitement Pakistan gave a demonstration of absorbing as well as enterprising cricket. Inzamam (85) though unlucky to miss his 2nd century of the match, dominated the game with Yousuf Youhana (49) who became the victim of a doubtful umpiring decision. Both of them, however, played thrilling strokes to delight the spectators.
For a change, the Pakistan batting broke the myth of its unpredictability. Almost every batsman contributed his share of runs to achieve a commanding 2nd innings total of 323 runs. Making fair use of their talent, they fully exploited England's bowling to pile up these runs. Rather unusually, the standards of England's bowling and fielding were not very impressive during the day.
Earlier, Pakistan resumed with a wise and confident style, planning to end up with a lead of over 300 runs. On a pitch still favorable to batsmen, Inzamam and Yousuf Youhana faced the England bowlers as per demands of the occasion. They scored runs at a gentle pace hitting occasional fours and not taking undue risks. The 1st hour yielded 49 runs.
Inzamam who was dropped by Nick Knight in the slips when 36 went on to complete his 50 in 121 balls. He followed it up with a smashing boundary to point to hoist a 200 run lead for Pakistan. With Youhana also keeping the other end up admirably, the 100 run partnership came in 205 balls.
With 94 runs scored pre-lunch, Pakistan was 181 for 3. Inzamam (70) and Youhana (42) looked well trenched at the crease. Their batting discipline during the session was remarkable. Not only that the pair curbed the tendency of chasing the outgoing balls they also dealt with the bouncers judiciously.
To England's delight the after lunch session changed the complexion of the game in their favour. Inzamam the giant killer, well on his way to joining the `century in each innings club', was out at 85 when he mistimed one to be caught at mid-wicket by Trescothick off Hoggard.
Inzamam's untimely departure was quickly followed by the most startling event of the match. Yousuf Youhana, well set to carry on was given out caught Atherton off Caddick. The ball bounced and hit his helmet visor but umpire Nicholls completely failed to notice that the player's bat or the gloves were not near the point of impact. For Pakistan, this error was most disappointing and occurred at such a crucial moment that in the event of Pakistan losing the test, I suspect the poor umpire would remain on their `curse list' for a long time to come.
Pakistan was at 208 for 5 when new comers Younis Khan and Azhar Mahmud walked in. To Pakistan's dismay, another controversial decision came when, this time, umpire Shepherd adjudged Younis Khan lbw off Gough. On replay one saw the ball being edged by the batsman and also estimated to be going over the stumps.
Azhar Mahmood was the next to go bringing Pakistan down to 241 for 7. With Pakistan's tail exposed England bowlers thought it may be easy to rout them but it was not so. Rashid Latif and Wasim Akram got into a solid partnership that yielded 59 breezy runs. Rashid got out at a total of 300 after contributing a useful 25.
Celebrating his 35th birthday with a heroic innings of 36 that included 6 fours, Gough bowled Wasim Akram and Pakistan was 306 for 9. For playing an enterprising last test innings in England, Wasim received a standing ovation from the crowd.
England bowlers maintained their traditional accuracy but lacked their previous devastating penetration. In the final analysis, Gough, Caddick and Hoggard succeeded in claiming 3 wickets each but the fielding support was lacking with numerous instances of fumbling, letting the ball through and dropping of some vital catches.
Pakistan eventually all out for 323 offered England a mammoth target of 370 to win.
Pakistan had certainly achieved a formidable position with a bright chance of winning the test and square up the series, provided they'd bowl and field well and hold their catches.
England started their 2nd innings quite aggressively ending up with a total of 85 for no loss. Mark Atherton (30) and Marcus Trescothick (48) were well set and played strokes all over the wicket. With 285 yet remaining one may think that's a tall order but we all know what England can do, backs to the wall, one only needs to recall their win at Karachi. So we shall have to wait and see.