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At Lord's, July 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. Drawn. Toss: England.
The final day might have turned into a classic but, as the match dwindled to a draw in roasting heat, it became clear that the game had been dominated by those who weren't there. Whether Michael Vaughan would have made a more aggressive declaration is impossible to say; had Andrew Flintoff been fit, however, giving England five front-line bowlers, it is fair to assume the timing would have been less conservative. As it was, Andrew Strauss, in his first Test as captain, chose to bat on for half an hour on the fifth morning, setting Pakistan an unlikely 380 to win in 80 overs. They never threatened the target, but neither did England ever look like taking ten wickets, even after Hoggard removed Salman Butt with the first ball of the innings.
Winning, they say, is a habit, but so too is losing: after England's 5-0 mauling in the one-day series with Sri Lanka, there was a sense that the ship needed steadying. Memories of their failure to bowl out Sri Lanka a second time at Lord's earlier in the summer, and of India's late assault in Nagpur earlier in the year, presumably played a part in Strauss's decision, as did the thought of Shahid Afridi - described by Hoggard as the world's most intimidating batsman - running amok in the final session. It did not help that two of the four bowlers England did have were not fully fit.
Harmison was still struggling to rediscover his rhythm after a shin injury, while Hoggard had needed stitches in his hand after it was trodden on at Canterbury the previous week. Harmison showed patches of form in the first innings, but was generally out of sorts. He produced a lifting beauty to have Faisal Iqbal caught by a leaping Collingwood at slip on the second evening, and generated something like his old hostility against Mohammad Yousuf just after lunch on the final day, but by the end he was struggling to bowl at even Inzamam-ul-Haq's body.
Panesar might have had more than two wickets, but he did get the one that mattered. In the first innings, Yousuf had rescued Pakistan from 68 for four, batting seven hours 48 minutes for an implacable double-century, which featured 26 fours and a six in 330 balls. He bowed his forehead to the turf on reaching each hundred, and afterwards thanked Allah; his 202 followed 223 in his previous Test innings against England, at Lahore in December. On the last day, Yousuf looked in control until he mysteriously neglected to offer a shot to a ball from Panesar pitching on middle and leg. It was left to Inzamam, unruffled as ever, to steer his side to safety, striking a record ninth consecutive half-century against the same opposition.
Pakistan seemed happy enough with the draw, given their injury problems. Their batting line-up was missing vice-captain Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik but, although their top order failed again, the more significant absentees were Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif, which blunted the pace attack's edge. Too much on the first day was short and wide: England raced to 60 in 11 overs and, though three quick wickets briefly made that look like a false start, soon continued to profit from the waywardness.
The indiscipline spread to Pakistan's catching. Collingwood offered Kamran Akmal the most regulation of caught-behind chances on 79; he went on to 186 (England's 700th Test century), combining his trademark grittiness with some crashing cut shots, further vindication of Duncan Fletcher's faith. Cook was even more fortunate: he was let off three times as he lurched to what will surely be the scratchiest century of his career. Together they added 233, a record for England's fourth wicket against Pakistan, beating Ted Dexter and Peter Parfitt's 188 at Karachi in 1961-62.
The tail hung around long enough for Bell to score England's third century of the innings, and their 100th at Lord's in 111 Tests since 1884. He edged his first ball just past slip, but from then on played sensibly and fluently - if in the anonymous style his detractors see as diffidence. Bell played expecting to be discarded, whatever he did, to make way for Flintoff 's return at Old Trafford; in fact, Flintoff 's relapse reprieved him. If there is a positive to the injuries plaguing England's captains, it is that the chance of a permanent vacancy has brought out the best in the fringe players.
Strauss drew criticism for delaying his first declaration, too, until after tea on the second day. But it is more probable that England's chances of victory disappeared on the fourth afternoon, when they lost wickets each time a charge felt imminent. Pietersen, the man most likely to mount a match-winning assault, looked uneasy, taking 14 balls to get off the mark, and squirting a four through cover off the leading edge, before being outwitted by Afridi and stumped.
Collingwood fell quickly, and Bell had just driven two fours off successive balls when he was run out, the victim of Strauss's eagerness to reach his hundred and a direct hit from Inzamam. Strauss did become the third England player to score a century on his debut as Test captain - following Archie MacLaren and Allan Lamb - in the next over, but his celebration, like his leadership, was muted.
Man of the Match: Mohammad Yousuf.