Close Pakistan 175 and 148 for 6 (Inzamam 53*, Saqlain 3*) need 113 more runs to beat Bangladesh 261 and 154 (Gul 4-58, Shabbir 4-68)
Inzamam-ul-Haq: standing between Bangladesh and their first Test win © AFP
Bangladesh made a determined push for their first Test victory in the final session of the third day of the third Test against Pakistan at Multan. Bangladesh took five wickets as Pakistan slipped from 62 for 1 to 132 for 6, and they ended the day still 113 runs short of their target.
Only Inzamam-ul-Haq stood between Bangladesh and victory with his first half-century of the series. He kept up a measure of authority over Mohammad Rafique, twice stepping down the pitch and lofting him high above his head for four. Rafique once again bowled with great control and intelligent variations of line and length, although he ended up with only one wicket to show for his labours. His battle with Inzamam tomorrow is sure to decide the result of this game. Saqlain Mushtaq, the other not-out batsman, has a Test hundred to his name, so Pakistan will know they are not out of the match yet.
Pakistan started promisingly in pursuit of 261, racking up 52 for the loss of one wicket in the 12 overs before tea as the debutant opener Salman Butt, dropped on 10 by Hannan Sarkar, made a rapid 37 with a succession of flashing drives and pulls. But Rafique and Khaled Mahmud managed to slow down the scoring rate after tea, and then the wickets began to fall as the pitch began to play a few tricks.
Umar Gul successfuly appeals for lbw against Mohammad Rafique © AFP
Mohammad Hafeez slashed at a shortish ball to Mashrafe Mortaza, on as a substitute, at gully (62 for 2). Yasir Hameed and Farhan Adil fell to deliveries which kicked off the pitch, then Younis Khan was run out before he had scored. He turned his back for a few moments on Inzamam and paid the inevitable price (81 for 4). Rashid Latif hung around with Inzamam for a while before the resurgent Mahmud, who had only taken five wickets in nine Tests before this, took his sixth wicket of the game by trapping Latif lbw with a yorker (132 for 6).
Bangladesh earlier resumed their second innings on 77 for 4 and progressed in fits and starts to 154. The morning session, spanned on either side by duststorms which delayed the start of play and then brought the players off for an early lunch, proved to be most absorbing. Bangladesh strove desperately to eke out every run possible, and Pakistan kept level with them by taking regular wickets. Bangladesh lost Mahmud to the first ball of the day (77 for 5), and then Alok Kapali soon after. Kapali edged a lifter from Yasir Ali, another debutant, and Latif took a spectacular catch flying in front of first slip - or so one thought. TV replays showed the ball popping out of Latif's gloves as he got up from the floor after rolling over twice (91 for 6).
Was Latif in control of the ball for a sufficient length of time? Perhaps, but clause three of Law 32, which tries to define what constitutes a fair catch, states: "The act of making the catch shall start from the time when a fielder first handles the ball and shall end when a fielder obtains complete control both over the ball and over his own movement." It is the last part of the clause that Latif arguably did not fulfil.
The match referee also needs to direct Asoka de Silva, the umpire, to another page of the rulebook: for the umpteenth time he gave a batsman out lbw to a ball pitching outside leg stump. The luckless batsman was Mohammad Rafique, and Umar Gul was the beneficiary of de Silva's charity. Gul finished with four wickets in the innings and eight in the match, but Pakistan's best bowler was Shabbir Ahmed, who bowled unchanged throughout the innings and finished with 4 for 68 from 23 overs. Rajin Saleh, playing only his third Test, was Bangladesh's most impressive batsman, batting with considerable composure and a careful eye on the situation to make his second score of more than 40 in what has been a low-scoring game. Bangladesh are sure to be restless tonight with excitement and anticipation.