England maintain upper hand
England were well on course for a 2-0 lead in the npower Test series despite a Pakistan fightback on day two at Edgbaston.
Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott shared a century stand between rain delays before off-spinner Saeed Ajmal claimed his maiden Test five-wicket haul as the hosts collapsed from 177 for two to 251 all out.
That represented a first-innings lead of 179, due largely to Pietersen’s scratchy 80 and Trott’s more fluent 55. Having come together yesterday evening, they added 133 together.
Pakistan had only shortened the deficit by one when James Anderson sent captain Salman Butt on his way for nought - their sixth duck of the match - but Imran Farhat and Azhar Ali survived until bad light heralded stumps at 19 for one from 17.1 overs.
Pietersen survived a ‘dead-ball’ controversy among his many scrapes as the tourists missed five chances, of varying difficulty, to dismiss him.
The strangest incident in Pietersen’s innings, and certainly the one which seemed to most annoy tourists still ruing their 72 all out yesterday, was not a Pakistan mistake but the confusion over the dead ball law as it went the batsman’s way when he had made 41.
Pakistan’s lot was still more unenviable after Umar Gul limped off with a hamstring injury and it emerged the seamer would play no further part in this match.
Ajmal hit back as England lost their last five for eight runs, but Pakistan had surely slipped too far off the pace already for their fightback to make a significant difference.
Pietersen was reprieved in a bizarre episode which had observers reaching for their Wisdens to check the Laws of Cricket.
He pulled away to the leg-side just as Mohammad Asif reached his delivery stride, after being distracted by movement behind the bowler’s arm.
But unfortunately, he decided to play a shot after all - and chipped an easy catch to Butt at mid-off.
Umpire Marais Erasmus signalled dead ball by the time the catch had been taken. Butt was nonetheless convinced Pietersen should have been out - and although Law 23.3 fell well short of appropriate clarification, it suggested at least that the Pakistan captain had a point.
There was nonetheless no doubt that hapless Pakistan were making most of their own problems, as they continued to blunder their way through the match.
An exasperated Butt estimated last night that they had already blown five clear chances to take wickets.
He could add another glaring miss to his tally within 10 minutes of this morning’s resumption, Pietersen escaping again without addition to his overnight 36.
This time, he got an inside edge on to his pad on a Mohammad Aamer inswinger - and while Pakistan were busy appealing for lbw, Umar Amin somehow contrived to put down a simple catch in the gully.
Pietersen had to wait until after lunch to reach his fifty, with his eighth four - and by far his most convincing shot - when he drove Aamer wide of mid-on from the 97th ball he faced.
Trott continued to slip under the radar on his way to an undemonstrative but composed half-century which eventually arrived off 105 balls when he straight-drove Gul for his seventh four.
Soon afterwards, Gul limped off after aborting his run-up at the start of an over - and the tourists had to bring on their second substitute fielder, with Shoaib Malik already out of the equation because of a bruised finger.
But Gul was replaced at the old pavilion end by Amin, and the medium-pacer quickly enhanced his reputation as a partnership breaker when a disbelieving Trott hit a full-blooded cut low but straight into the hands of sub Yasir Hameed at gully.
Heavy rain meant no further play until after tea, when Pietersen’s luck finally ran out - Ajmal collecting a routine return catch from a drive at a doosra.
Eoin Morgan edged Asif behind on the back-foot defence, and Matt Prior missed a sweep at Ajmal to go lbw after a failed England review.
Ajmal had Graeme Swann dropped twice in single figures but shifted Paul Collingwood for 28 when Farhat held on at slip.
Hameed held Stuart Broad at leg-slip off Ajmal and, after Aamer trapped Anderson in front with the new ball, the off-spinner had Swann caught and bowled to finish with 5-82.
Butt edged a very good ball from Anderson to slip in the third over of Pakistan’s second innings. But despite some excellent bowling too from Broad and Steven Finn, Farhat and Azhar stood firm.
After his 32-ball duck yesterday, number three Azhar was still runless in the match until the 47th ball he faced - which he pushed to cover off Broad for a scurried single.
England made good on Broad’s promise last night, to give Pakistan’s batsmen nothing, and it took until the final ball of the 13th over - from Finn - for Farhat to square-cut just over point for the first four of the innings.