Pakistan edge closer to England
At last something for the home crowd to cheer about. After being on the backfoot for most of the first two days - and watching Marcus Trescothick cruise to a brilliant 193 today - Pakistan clawed their way back into this match with some brave batting.
Salman Butt led the charge and brought them near to parity with his second fifty of the match, and he was well supported by Younis Khan who perished for 48 just before the close. The smart money is still on England, though, thanks largely to the efforts of Trescothick as Pakistan closed on 125 for 2, 19 runs behind.
Trescothick continued where he left off yesterday, in confident, authoritative fashion, to stride to his second-highest Test score. His marathon innings, which began yesterday morning, finally came to a close in the third over after lunch.
Spare a thought for his poor shins, though: they've really suffered this year with the number of times he's kicked himself - in his last 16 Test innings he has scored between 150 and 200 four times. This latest kick will be the most painful, just seven runs shy of joining Ted Dexter as the only other English player to make a double ton in Pakistan. Still, he won't be complaining too much having solidified England's position.
True, he had two reprieves - offering a sitter in the deep to the substitute Rana Naved on 181, and there was a less clear-cut chance on 48 yesterday when Danish Kaneria's appeal was turned down - but otherwise his innings was a thing of beauty, not to mention brains. He cut, swept and punch-drove in ominously dominant vein and when Naved spilled the chance Inzamam could have wept. Luckily for Pakistan the reprieve wasn't too costly.
Trescothick's eventual dismissal, an edge off Shabbir Ahmed, triggered a collapse; England lost their last four wickets for 30 runs. Ahmed took three of them, including the next to fall, Geraint Jones, who had followed Trescothick's example with a series of impressive cover drives in a stylish 22. Shoaib Ahktar nipped in to dismiss Shaun Udal for a duck before Ahmed was back to remove Ashley Giles, after a flighty 16, to end with 4 for 54. It was a well-deserved haul after some tight bowling.
Earlier, Andrew Flintoff made a hardworking 45 before he had a rush of blood just before lunch and he sent a catch high to Malik in the deep. It was a needless dismissal having played so sensibly, but just reward for some good thinking by Inzamam to bring back Akhtar for another burst.
Another plan went right for Inzamam where Kevin Pietersen was concerned, bringing on Danish Kaneria as soon as Pietersen strode jauntily in. Pietersen's 5 was of the blink-and-miss variety. He did a lot of missing.
His first four balls off Kaneria were all defensives - solid; less solid; quite shaky; very shaky. The fifth ball he cover drove for four. Ah, easy. Well, actually, no - the very next delivery, he was wrong-footed by the wrong'un.
Trescothick and Flintoff played the bamboozling Kaneria better. Flintoff struggled at first to pick the wrong'un but made amends with some booming drives. The vital Trescothick was more assured, the highlight a straight-driven six.
Matthew Hoggard hung around for a stubborn half hour before Akhtar teased him out. He had done his job. Trescothick and co then did theirs, but so did Pakistan's batsmen.
An increasingly quick pitch should have encouraged England's bowlers, as should the movement Pakistan had earlier found with their second new ball. Butt and Malik, though, got Pakistan off to a flyer, putting on a quick 31 in six overs against the new-ball attack of Hoggard and Flintoff.
Trescothick made a swift change, introducing Steve Harmison in just the seventh over. The switch paid immediate dividends, as Harmison found Malik's edge. It was a breakthrough England badly needed to peg back the scoring rate after the openers set off playing naturally and aggressively.
From thereon in it was uphill for England's bowlers as Butt continued to capitalize on the early initiative, although at a more controlled tempo. He used all the shots in his bag: good on the leg side, very strong on the cut; he was attacking, but patient, too. By the close he had notched an admirable unbeaten 53 from 118 balls, with only the hint of a chance from a Flintoff bouncer which he fended forwards and upwards but just out of reach of a tumbling Jones.
Khan was a worthy sidekick and he was unlucky to fall for 48 six balls before the close, steering Flintoff to a diving Trescothick in the gully; another impressive piece of outfielding to add to England's stunning display this Test. The loss of Khan was something of a wasted wicket, though, yet Pakistan will be pleased with their overall efforts as they inch towards erasing the deficit.
Shoaib Malik c Trescothick b Harmison 18 (31 for 1)
Forceful edge snatched two-handed and to the left at first slip
Younis Khan c Trescothick b Flintoff 48 (125 for 2)
Tired steer to gully
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
Matthew Hoggard c Akmal b Akhtar 1 (266 for 4)
Thin edge through
Kevin Pietersen c Butt b Kaneria 5 (271 for 5)
Popped leading edge to short leg
Andrew Flintoff c Malik b Akhtar 45 (364 for 6)
Skied to deep mid-wicket
Marcus Trescothick c Akmal b Ahmed 193 (388 for 7)
Outside edge to keeper
Geraint Jones b Ahmed 22 (399 for 8)
Offstump knocked back by peach of a delivery
Shaun Udal lbw Akhtar 0 (401 for 9)
Tried to play across the line
Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo