Inzamam and Afridi hand Pakistan control
Pakistan 300 for 4 (Inzamam 80*, Afridi 67*, Yousuf 78) v England
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
If England were delighted to welcome back their captain Michael Vaughan, Pakistan must have been positively over the moon at Shahid Afridi's return to the side. With a blistering unbeaten assault of 67, Afridi, his captain Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf have put their side in a commanding position at the close of play on the first day.
Afridi and Yousuf provided the innings with pace; Inzamam with the stability - he set his stall out to be there at the close of play. And he was. His innings, while not as adventurous in its strokeplay, shut the door on England, and on day two his remains the vital wicket - for both teams.
His calm and resolute partnership of 128 with Yousuf provided the perfect platform for Afridi to launch his attack. Dancing to the crease without a care in the world, he treated all of the English bowlers with disdain and contempt; he scored 12 runs in his first four balls, and raced uninhibitedly to fifty from 46 balls. His captain cut and drove his way to yet another fifty himself - his 42nd for Pakistan, and his eighth against England.
It hadn't gone Pakistan's way earlier in the day, though, after choosing to bat. On a pitch that was likened to a strip of baked mud, they got off to a rollicking start but England - despite their initial waywardness - snaffled three quick wickets.
Steve Harmison tempted Salman Butt, who threatened to continue his excellent form, into edging a full delivery - and this was soon followed up by Flintoff. Returning for a new spell, his first ball was chipped limply and wastefully by Younis Khan to Kevin Pietersen. By now, Pakistan's exuberant strokeplay had been reduced to careful defence, as they pottered along at little over three runs per over. Shoaib Malik, who had played solidly throughout the morning, mis-drove Hoggard. On any other day, the ball would have sped to the boundary, but Flintoff, at short cover, dived full-length with remarkable agility and reactions, to snatch the ball one-handed. Malik trudged off, with a look of part-anger and part-incredulity - and England went to lunch a happy bunch.
Pakistan's fragility wasn't to rear its ugly head, though, as England went wicketless in the afternoon session. Both Inzamam and Yousuf calmly and steadily re-built the innings; Yousuf was in particularly elegant touch, caressing nine boundaries and nudging singles intelligently. Inzamam, the rock throughout the day, was rarely troubled in his innings - although Flintoff did find one which which spat alarmingly, but it fell inches short of Andrew Strauss at gully. The odd blemish aside, his innings was one of utter determination and fortitude; Pakistan, after all, only need to win this Test to wrap up the series.
Both Ashley Giles and Shaun Udal had proved disconcertingly expensive, forcing Vaughan to use Ian Bell, whose wobbling medium-pacers had been surprisingly effective against Inzamam before tea. Yousuf airily drove back to Bell, who dived low and took a fine catch - or, at least, it appeared to be. The replay proved inconclusive.
The celebrations were short-lived, however, as Afridi sprinted to the crease to assert his authority. Few players can match this batsman for sheer uninhibited monstrous hitting, and he made sure all the England bowlers knew of his liking for violent, manic boundary-bashing. After receiving one sighter from Bell, he clattered the same bowler over his head for four. The very next ball, a very respectable delivery was blistered past mid-on for another four, followed by a beautifully timed cut past point for his third four. Afridi had arrived.
On such placid wickets, large totals are expected and wickets are both priceless and rare. Vaughan's dropping of Afridi at cover, when on 35, has proved expensive already - and could become even more costly tomorrow.
Salman Butt c Jones b Harmison 26 (53 for 1)
Edged a full-pitched delivery
Younis Khan c Pietersen b Flintoff 7 (63 for 2)
Chipped one to midwicket
Shoaib Malik c Flintoff b Hoggard 27 (73 for 3)
Mistimed drive to Flintoff at short cover who took a diving one-handed catch
Mohammad Yousuf c & b Bell 78 (201 for 4)
Firm push back to the bowler, who dived low to his right
Will Luke is editorial assistant of Cricinfo