England end on top as Trescothick cruises to century
England love it when a plan comes together, and their team were certainly on their A-game today as Marcus Trescothick hit an imperious century to complement his bowlers' earlier destruction of Pakistan's tail. By the close he was unbeaten on 135, with his side trailing by just 21 runs in the first innings, and with seven wickets left.
Ian Bell may not have figured in England's original thoughts, but he slotted in at No 3 with a stylish, composed 71. Together he and Trescothick put on 180 to hand England firm control of this match.
England bossed proceedings from the off, skittling out Pakistan's last four wickets for 30 runs - then batting calmly, serenely and at a fair pace, too. They coursed along at nearly four an over, although Inzamam-ul-Haq did slow proceedings after lunch with the introduction of Shabbir Ahmed and Danish Kaneria.
Trescothick, England's mainstay in their warm-ups, was their leader in Multan. He could count himself very lucky, though, that Billy Bowden kept his finger down when he was on 48, when Kaneria brought one back in at him which was going on to hit middle. He survived and cruised to his 13th Test hundred, his second against Pakistan.
Bell responded to Trescothick's example, and played well, off the back foot in particular. If his confidence was shaken before the match by the knowledge that he was only included because of Michael Vaughan's absence, you wouldn't have known it. Where he had hesitated against Australia, here he was positive, organised and decisive: sweeping here, picking the wrong'un there. His 71 was well deserved.
There was some relief, finally, for Pakistan in the evening session when Shoaib Malik edged him out. The other Shoaib, Akhtar, believed he had got his man earlier - and he certainly celebrated as if he had - with a clever slow yorker that bowled Bell; but a not-so-clever overstepping gave the batsman a brief stay of execution.
After the wicket-that-wasn't, Bell pulled himself together, and such was his concentration that he faced a delivery from the world's fastest bowler without the aid of the sightscreen. After some frantic waving from the England dressing-room Bell had it sorted, going on to despatch Ahktar to third man with a sweet late cut, and digging out a second attempted slower one. Then Malik struck with a decent ball as Bell inside-edged to Salman Butt at forward short leg.
The loss of Andrew Strauss for 9 was the only minor blemish in the first two sessions, while Paul Collingwood fared little better during Pakistan's last dart, falling to Shabbir Ahmed for 10 just before the close. True, England were helped by some wayward bowling throughout - from Akhtar and Mohammad Sami in particular - but their timing and self-confidence was second-to-none.
So nevermind England's poor pre-Test preparations - it's been all right on the night so far - it's Pakistan, without a Test since June, who are looking undercooked. Even their premier bowlers, Akhtar and Kaneria, were thoroughly out-thought by England, so much so that at one stage Inzamam turned to the part-time spin of Malik in desperation.
England bowled to a different script - their lines were tight and polished, their execution disciplined. Their aim had been to dismiss Pakistan for under 300. Mission possible. Matthew Hoggard was the first to strike, with just the fifth ball of the day he found Sami's edge. Andrew Flintoff accounted for Inzamam five overs later as England made great use of the new ball and swinging conditions.
Pakistan's captain had wasted no time in bringing up his 40th Test fifty, working the ball round the ground and playing with confidence until he was undone with his first false shot of the day. Five balls later Flintoff added the all-at-sea Shabbir, who didn't have time to find his sea legs before a searing yorker found his middle stump. Flintoff finished with 4 for 68.
Steve Harmison ended proceedings with his second ball, a short-pitched delivery which had Kaneria flashing to Ashley Giles at gully. England were mightily - and rightly - pleased with their bowling effort: Collingwood aside, they each conceded fewer than three runs an over. Their batting was pretty handy, too - no Plan B needed for them. For Pakistan, though, it's back to the drawing board.
Andrew Strauss lbw Sami 9 (18 for 1)
Beaten for pace and swing
Ian Bell c Butt b Malik 71 (198 for 2)
Inside edge scooped at short leg
Paul Collingwood c Akmal b Shabbir 10 (251 for 3)
Pushed hard at innocuous straight one
Shoaib Malik lbw Flintoff 39 (80 for 1)
Chose to go back and there was no doubt
Salman Butt c Jones b Udal 74 (161 for 2)
Slashed loopy delivery to slip; Jones snatched the rebound
Mohammad Yousuf b Flintoff 5 (166 for 3)
Undone by inswinging yorker
Younis Khan lbw Harmison 39 (181 for 4)
First ball after tea, ball nipped back sharply
Hasan Raza b Harmison 0 (183 for 5)
Sixth ball after tea, inswinging full delivery
Kamran Akmal c Trescothick b Hoggard 28 (238 for 6)
Useful first-slip catch as the ball was dying
Mohammad Sami c Jones b Hoggard 1 (244 for 7)
Beaten by regulation awayswinger
Inzamam-ul-Haq c Strauss b Flintoff 53 (260 for 8)
Turned inside out and sent thick edge to second slip
Shabbir Ahmed b Flintoff 0 (260 for 9)
No answer to yorker
Danish Kaneria c Giles b Harmison 6 (274 all out)
Steered backfoot cut to gully
Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo