England subside to Aamer and Ajmal
Pakistan launched a stunning fightback after tea today to make them favourites to win the third npower Test.
Alastair Cook’s first international century this summer had wiped out the tourists’ first-innings advantage and looked like setting them a tricky target.
However, having removed Cook for 110, Salman Butt’s side took six wickets for 26 runs after tea to give them real hope of keeping the series alive ahead of the Lord’s finale.
Paceman Mohammad Aamer and spinner Saeed Ajmal, both left-armers, each claimed four wickets to precipitate England’s collapse.
The Brit Insurance Oval floodlights had allowed play to continue through a gloomy afternoon.
But the umpires took the players off at 5.15pm with England 221 for nine, a lead of 146, and no further play was possible.
Cook’s fortunes improved dramatically today to put the hosts in control at the second interval.
The opener, who had struggled for England of late, overcame early uncertainty to cash in on a flat pitch.
He collected regular boundaries all morning and, following a watchful period after lunch, went to three figures in 148 balls with a flurry of fours.
Cook’s hundred arrived in bizarre fashion when the left-hander defended to bowler Mohammad Asif, who launched a needless throw over wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal to the Pavilion End rope.
The opener’s 13th Test ton eclipsed his previous best for England this summer – 29 against Bangladesh at Old Trafford.
Pakistan had the luxury of a nearly new ball in overcast conditions this morning but conceded 15 fours by lunch, 12 of which came from Cook’s bat.
England resumed on six for one, 69 in arrears, with Cook yet to score and nightwatchman James Anderson on two.
The opener was positive from the off, although he did ride his luck, twice edging Asif just short of the slips in between a couple of crisp flicks to the midwicket boundary off Aamer.
Anderson also demonstrated attacking instincts, his second boundary of the day a superb drive off Asif worthy of a regular number three.
Anderson, though, was caught behind off Ajmal’s first ball today in a wicket maiden.
Cook was again fortunate when his slashing cut off Wahab Riaz bisected first and second slip at a catchable height.
He made the most of his chance, cutting Riaz for his seventh four to herald England’s 50.
Jonathan Trott emulated Cook’s boundaries to leg off Aamer, who strayed onto the right-hander’s pads.
Fours continued to flow from the seamers, notably a sublime Cook cover drive off Aamer, but Ajmal showed more control from the Vauxhall End.
Cook brought up his half-century with a single off Aamer, which also put England in credit.
He dominated a fifty-partnership with Trott, which Cook heralded with a second cut four off Riaz.
With the seamers hemorrhaging runs, Butt introduced Imran Farhat’s leg-spin.
A single from Trott off Farhat signalled England’s 100 as the hosts adopted a circumspect approach up to lunch.
Cook and Trott resumed in watchful fashion, finding the rope less frequently than before the interval.
Such was the gloom that the floodlights were called into action.
Cook prospered in the improved visibility, cutting Ajmal, who bowled throughout the afternoon from the Vauxhall End, for four twice in an over.
The hapless Asif’s wild throw then brought rapturous applause for Cook and a century alliance with Trott.
Cook perished in unfortunate circumstances, edging Riaz down leg from his 173rd ball, featuring 17 fours.
That halted a 116-run partnership in which Cook scored the lion’s share.
Kevin Pietersen appeared nervous to start with, but cover drove Riaz to get into his stride.
Trott, increasingly becalmed, broke his shackles with consecutive fours off Ajmal and Pietersen mimicked the feat off Asif, adding a third boundary in an expensive over.
Pietersen was the first to go after tea, for 23, as Ajmal, bowling from around the wicket, turned one back through the right-hander’s gate.
Trott then diverted an Aamer delivery to Azhar Ali at gulley to end a vigil of 36 from 130 deliveries.
Paul Collingwood’s miscued sweep off Ajmal took England to 200. However, the batsman was on his way, slashing Aamer behind.
Ajmal defeated Eoin Morgan with a doosra that slipped between the left-hander’s bat and pad and Prior soon followed, caught behind off Aamer.
Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad briefly counter-attacked, but the latter missed a short delivery to be bowled by Ajmal before bad light intervened.