Umar's calm steers Pakistan home
Graeme Swann and James Anderson’s valiant efforts proved in vain as Umar Akmal hit the winning runs to steer Pakistan to a nervous four-wicket victory in the third npower Test at the Brit Insurance Oval.
With Mohammad Yousuf unbeaten on 33, Pakistan were seemingly cruising on 131 for four in pursuit of 148, before Anderson and Swann, who took 3-50, hauled England back into it.
Anderson produced a sensational delivery to remove Yousuf when his out-swinging yorker knocked the veteran’s off-stump out of the ground, before Swann dismissed Kamran Akmal lbw the following over.
However, despite some tight England bowling, Umar Akmal, who finished unbeaten on 16, and Mohammad Aamer held their nerve to steer the tourists to victory.
The win means the series is beautifully poised at 2-1 to England going into the final game at Lord's next week.
The hosts went into the fourth morning on 221 for four, 146 runs ahead, with Stuart Broad and Steven Finn at the crease.
However, their hopes of extending the advantage beyond 150 were dashed when the fourth delivery of the day, Aamer’s well-directed short ball, hit the splice of Broad’s bat, Mohammad Asif taking the catch at mid-on. It gave Aamer Test-best figures of 5-52 in 19 overs.
After Aamer had given Pakistan the perfect start, opener Imran Farhat looked intent on being positive in the run chase, cutting Anderson’s second ball over point for four.
However, the Lancashire bowler got the breakthrough he was looking for, finding just enough away movement to force Yasir Hameed to edge to second slip, where Swann took the catch at the second attempt.
Pakistan’s positive approach continued, though, as Farhat struck fours off consecutive overs from Broad and Anderson, to leave Pakistan 28 for one after four.
England’s cause was not helped by leaking extras, while Pakistan picked up easy singles as Andrew Strauss opted to place boundary riders on both sides of the wicket.
When the tourists collected another eight runs off the fifth over, Strauss opted to bring Swann into the attack in the hunt for a much-needed wicket.
And it almost paid instant dividends when Farhat just cleared mid-on as he looked to pressure England’s lynchpin.
The runs continued to flow, with skipper Salman Butt hitting Anderson for a crisp four through cover.
Steven Finn almost got the breakthrough in his first over as Farhat just inside edged a delivery that was about to crash into leg stump to fine-leg for four.
The duo soon brought up the fifty partnership, before Swann trapped Farhat leg before sweeping. Farhat reviewed to no avail.
That wicket did not stop Butt, who continued to keep the pressure on England by playing fluently through the off side.
Swann nearly took the prized wicket of Yousuf moments later, but the batsman inside edged the ball just past the stumps.
From that point on, Yousuf and Butt mixed good running with clever boundaries, epitomised by a late cut by the left-handed Butt to the third man boundary off Swann.
With England running out of ideas, Butt took full control against Broad, crunching him for three fours in an over as Pakistan brought up the hundred.
However, Swann dragged England back into it once again, having the Pakistan skipper caught at first slip by Collingwood for 48.
Yousuf remained, pulling Swann over midwicket for four in the final over before the interval as the tourists continued to enjoy the upper hand.
England tried to put the squeeze on after lunch, but Yousuf was starting to look in increasingly imperious touch as he produced another late cut for four off Swann.
Just when Pakistan seemed to be cruising, they again lost a wicket as Azhar Ali was needlesly run out by a clever piece of work by Swann, who deflected the ball onto the stumps from Alastair Cook’s throw.
Yousuf still looked comfortable, though, hitting a boundary with yet another late cut a couple of balls later.
England knew it would take a good ball to dismiss him and that is exactly what Anderson delivered to leave the hosts requiring five wickets, while Pakistan needed just 17 runs.
The drama increased another notch when, with just one more run added to the total, Kamran shouldered arms to Swann delivery which trapped him in front.
Umpire Tony Hill raised the finger and, despite a review, the batsman was sent back to the pavilion. Pakistan had lost four wickets for 32 runs.
The duo continued to bowl beautifully thereafter, beating the edge on countless occasions as England ran up four consecutive maidens.
However, Umar and Aamer were resolute and, after the former helped himself to a couple of singles, the number eight pulled Swann for a precious boundary.
Umar then whipped Anderson through the leg side for another boundary, leaving Pakistan needing just six to win.
He then hit a couple of twos and a two singles to secure victory for Pakistan and give them hope of claiming a series draw north of the Thames river.