Pakistan's tortured top order will have to find new levels of resolve if they want to extend this Test beyond the third day after England built a lead of 179 at Edgbaston despite a late collapse. Saeed Ajmal took a career-best 5 for 82 as the hosts' last five wickets fell for eight runs after Kevin Pietersen made a charmed 80, but James Anderson then struck early as Pakistan edged to 19 for 1.
The visiting batsmen found life no easier in their second innings and Salman Butt fell to an almost unplayable delivery which seamed away late and took the outside via his pad to first slip. Azhar Ali extended his run-less streak in this game to 44 deliveries before he finally scampered a desperate single from his 13th ball to escape his pair.
England thought they had removed Azhar moments before with an inside edge to the keeper but, after failing to review his caught-behind in the first innings at Trent Bridge, he was saved by the UDRS which clearly showed the ball had flicked the pad. Still, though, Azhar's mind often looked frazzled, as when he tried to advance at Broad. Such was the stranglehold applied by the attack.
Somehow, Imran Farhat survived until bad light hastened the close with five overs remaining after a severe working over from the pacemen. Anderson moved the ball both ways while Broad pitched the ball a touch fuller than usual and regularly beat the edge
England's late collapse and the continued dominance of the ball increased the value of Pietersen's battling innings and his 133-run stand with Jonathan Trott. It will go down as the ugliest effort of his career, and his 17-month wait for a hundred goes on, but he ensured the chance of a commanding lead wasn't squandered.
Having already been given two clear-cut chances yesterday Pietersen was dropped again without adding to his overnight score and it was the most embarrassing of all Pakistan's lapses - which says something. He got an inside edge into his pad which ballooned towards gully, but Umar Amin was more interested in joining the appeal for lbw and dropped the easiest of chances.
Pietersen's innings, not for the first time, also included a dose of controversy as he left everyone diving for a copy of the Laws. The incident occurred as Mohammad Asif ran in for the fifth ball of his 12th over and he was well into his delivery stride when Pietersen began walking towards square leg. The batsman is allowed to back away if he is distracted, but Pietersen then continued to play a shot and lobbed a gentle catch to mid-off. The umpire Marais Erasmus called dead ball moments before the ball was struck, but Butt protested that it was too late.
Law 23.3.b (v) states: "Either umpire shall call "dead ball" when he is satisfied that for an adequate reason the striker is not ready for the delivery of the ball and, if the ball is delivered, makes no attempt to play it." It is that final part which raises questions about the decision although Pietersen later suggested he only played the ball because it followed him. Thankfully, though, given the heated history of England-Pakistan contests, the sting was taken out of the moment by a rain break.
Pietersen tried to combat the threat of the swing from Asif and Mohammad Amir by using his feet and after lunch began to locate the middle of the bat with more frequency. He went to fifty with a well-timed flick through midwicket off Amir then took the attack to Ajmal.
However, Ajmal also caused Pietersen problems and watched as an outside thudded into Zulqarnain Haider's leg and ran away to the boundary. It was a huge deflection and a wicketkeeper isn't expected to hold such edges, but it summed up Pietersen's fortune. He was lucky again a short while later when a beautiful delivery from Ajmal gripped and spun between bat and pad and somehow missed the stumps.
Compared to Pietersen's rather manic display, Trott was a picture of total calmness as he went about his work in typically unfussy manner. With a better throw he could have been run out on 47, but went to a fifty on his home ground off 105 balls. Apart from a few issues picking Ajmal he was untroubled until he cut a short ball from Umar Amin to the substitute Yasir Hameed in the gully who showed how to take a catch.
Amin was only in operation because Umar Gul had limped off after pulling up with a hamstring strain at the start of his 10th over which left Butt having to juggle a weakened bowling unit. He was therefore grateful for Ajmal's spirited showing as his doosra confused the middle order. It began when Pietersen got a leading edge back to the bowler and, while it's probably come too late to save this match, he has given Pakistan something to cling to for The Oval - which is a venue that can take turn.
But despite the renewed vigour of the bowling effort, Pakistan produced further howlers in the field as Graeme Swann was twice dropped during his brief innings - firstly by Hameed at slip then by the captain himself at mid-off. Ajmal, though, didn't miss the chance of his first five-wicket haul, but wasn't going to risk leaving the final catch to anyone else as he safely pouched Swann's top edge.