Mohammad Yousuf hit a serene, unbeaten knock of 185 to keep Pakistan breathing on the third day of the opening Test as Englandâ€™s grip loosened a bit on Saturday here at Lordâ€™s.
Batting with effortless ease, Yousuf showed why he is regarded as Pakistanâ€™s most reliable batsman after skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq with a stylish and sensitive batting display that guided Pakistan towards relative safety.
With Shahid Afridi (0) batting at the other end, the tourists were placed atâ€ 409 for seven at stumps, much better off than last evening when Steve Harmison rocked them with two wickets from three balls after England had piled up 528 runs.
In such a dire state, Pakistan needed one of their premier batsmen to step out and carry them through. It was the bearded Yousuf who responded to the call.
Thanks to him as well as some good supporting cameos from Inzamam (69) and Kamran Akmal (58), the day belonged to Pakistan as they lost just four wickets and added over 343 runs to their overnight score of 66-3.
The batting revolved around Yousuf who scored his 17th Test century and added 173 with Inzamam, 59 with Abdul Razzaq andâ€ 99 with Kamran Akmal. He hit 24 fours and a six in his 287-ball unbeaten knock that took 387 minutes.
Though the conditions were perfectly suited for batsmen, it wasnâ€™t at all easy for Yousuf and company as Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Liam Plunkett bowled with a lot of fire in their belly and spinner Monty Panesar also kept a good line and length.
Harmison with 3-76 was the most threatening bowler and at one stage looked good enough to fold up the touristsâ€™ innings in the final session but a gritty Akmal managed to hold on to his nerves as Pakistan went past 400 for only the second time at Lordâ€™s. Their Test best here is 428-8 declared in 1982 when Mohsin Hassan Khan scored a memorable double century.
With two days to go and Pakistan stillâ€ 119â€ runs behind England, Inzamamâ€™s men are still vulnerable.
But they could have been in a worse situation without Yousufâ€™s sheet anchor role. Pakistan who were walking on thin ice at 66-3 began the day with an early blow when night watchman Mohammad Sami gave Geraint Jones a regulation catch off Hoggard. Sami had a life earlier in the over, the second of the day, when he edged Hoggard towards the second slip where skipper Andrew Strauss appealed for a catch.
However, umpire Steve Bucknor rejected the appeal after consulting Simon Taufel, pointing out that ball had bounced. Sami had no such luck two balls later as a nick flew straight in Jonesâ€™s gloves and Pakistan were 68-4.
Inzamam joined Yousuf and faced a barrage of short pitch deliveries from Hoggard and Harmison. If the tourists had any hopes of saving this Test, it lay in this pair formed by their most accomplished and trusted batsmen.
Their first task was to avoid the follow-on as Pakistan needed 261 more runs to do that. Inzamam slowly settled down and with Yousuf in his element, the flow of runs began as the duo set out to achieve the job.
Yousuf carried on impressively playing effortlessly as he reached his fifty in 79 balls with eight boundaries.
Inzamam began his knock with a superb drive off Hoggard and looked in good touch from the onset. He was a touch lucky when at 17 he was dropped by Marcus Trescothick who failed to hold on to a sharp chance off Harmison.
Together with Yousuf he steadied the ship as Pakistan went for lunch at 165 for four.
The partnership continued in the second session as Yousuf and Inzamam exploited perfect batting conditions in front of a packed crowd at Lordâ€™s. Inzy raced to his 43rd Test fifty in 89 balls including seven fours as Pakistan inched towards safety. But just when it seemed that the visitors were on their way to an emphatic comeback in the Test came a twist. Inzy, moved too far from a Liam Plunkett delivery and saw his leg stump shattered, missing out what would have been his sixth Test ton against England. He faced 115 balls and stayed on the crease for almost three hours in a potentially match-saving partnership with Yousuf.
Inzamamâ€™s fall brought Pakistan under pressure again. Abdul Razzaq (22) added 59 runs with Yousuf before becoming Harmisonâ€™s third victim, caught behind by Jones. Pakistan were now 300 for 6 with 29 runs still needed to avoid the follow-on.
Yousuf, however, continued to bat impressively and even though newcomer Kamran Akmal began tentatively against the English pacers, took Pakistan past that milestone.
Akmal had a lapse of concentration just minutes before close when he became Kevin Pietersenâ€™s first Test victim after adding 99 runs for the seventh wicket with Yousuf.
England won toss
England 1st inns 528-9 dec (A N Cook 105, P D Collingwood 186, I R Bell 100*)
Pakistan 1st inns (overnight 66-3)
Salman Butt c Strauss b Harmison 10
Imran Farhat b Plunkett 33
Faisal Iqbal c Collingwood b Harmison 0
Mohammad Yousuf not out 185
Mohammad Sami c Jones b Hoggard 0
*Inzamam-ul-Haq b Plunkett 69
Abdul Razzaq c Jones b Harmison 22
â€ Kamran Akmal c Jones b Pietersen 58
Shahid Afridi not out 0
Extras (b7, lb13, w7, nb5) 32
Total (7 wkts, 109 overs) 409
To bat: Umar Gul, Danish Kaneria
Fall: 1-28, 2-28, 3-65, 4-68, 5-241, 6-300, 7-399
Bowling: Hoggard 28-2-100-1 (5nb, 1w); Harmison 24-5-76-3; Panesar 27-3-93-0; Plunkett 21-3-78-2 (4w); Collingwood 7-1-31-0 (2w); Pietersen 2-0-11-1
Umpires: S A Bucknor (West Indies) and S J A Taufel (Australia). TV umpire: P J Hartley. Match referee: R S Madugalle (Sri Lanka)
Remaining matches: July 27-31 2nd Test, Manchester. August 4-8 3rd Test, Leeds. August 17-21 4th Test, The Oval.
Source:The NewsMore on:Inzamam, Mohammad Yousuf, Pakistan, Pakistan in England 2006, Shahid Afridi, Steve Harmison
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