Haider gives Pakistan faint hope
Zulqarnain Haider’s defiant 88 made England work harder and wait longer than anyone had bargained for as their victory push stalled at Edgbaston.
Debutant Haider shared stands of 52 for the seventh wicket with Mohammad Aamer and then 115 for the eighth with Saeed Ajmal - despite Graeme Swann’s international-best 6-60 - in a second-innings 291 for nine which left England needing to make at least 113 tomorrow.
Haider and Aamer demonstrated fine technique and temperament to defy Swann in the afternoon session on a helpful pitch on day three of this second npower Test.
Then England were held up still more so by Haider and Ajmal, the former - who had made a golden duck in the first innings - reaching his fifty, and simultaneously putting his team in credit, with a memorable on-drive off Steven Finn for his ninth four.
He had come in at 82 for five, avoided a king pair only after a DRS review of his first ball from Swann disproved an lbw decision because the ball would have passed leg-stump.
He also got the right end of an England review on 18 when an exasperated Stuart Broad thought he had him caught behind.
Pakistan were nonetheless 101 for six soon after lunch. Yet Haider and Co had not read the script which dictated the tourists would capitulate again as they did in the first innings here, and last Sunday in the first Test at Trent Bridge.
Aamer finally departed for just 16 to the 117th delivery he faced, fencing a catch to slip off Broad with the second new ball.
But it was not until late evening that Swann had Ajmal edging to slip two balls after his maiden Test half-century - and then doubled up in his next over when Haider mistimed a catch to mid-off.
The tourists had still been 78 short of making England bat again when Swann had Umar Amin stumped, over-balancing in defence, for his fourth wicket and his team’s sixth.
But the rest of the afternoon brought no England success.
Swann, operating in an unbroken 24-over spell on a pitch offering him significant assistance, bowled 67 balls without conceding a run after Haider cover-drove his first delivery of the session for four.
The Pakistan policy at that stage was defence at all costs. But Haider in particular played Swann with great sense and skill, smothering the spin with his long reach.
The jading experience was all too much for Broad, who vented his anger by throwing a ball back at Haider at the end of an over, earning the bowler a talking to.
To make matters worse for Broad, he should have run Aamer out for one in the next over - but his throw to Swann at the non-striker’s end was far too high.
England had cause for more frustration soon afterwards when Paul Collingwood found an inside edge on to Aamer’s pad but Alastair Cook could not take the diving catch at silly-point, which would have seen the left-hander off for nine.
Earlier, Azhar Ali and Imran Farhat had completed their 52-run second-wicket stand after resuming on 19 for one, before a rush of wickets as soon as Swann entered the attack at the city end.
A perfect off-break with his third delivery from round the wicket looped into Farhat’s pads only to turn sharply and beat the left-hander’s forward defence to hit the off bail on 29.
Swann was at it again in his next over, turning another almost square to beat Azhar’s attempted off-drive and bowl the right-hander leg-stump through the gate.
Shoaib Malik decided to deal with the pace of Finn by staying leg-side in defence, and looking to leave on height as well as line.
But the technique backfired when umpire Marais Erasmus decided Finn had got one to run over the batsman’s glove on the way to wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
Counter-attacker Umar Akmal made an unfathomable decision to pad up to another Swann off-break, and had to go lbw for 20 - after a review.
Haider, who would go on to become top-scorer, then had the DRS to thank for avoiding a second first-ball duck.
England could hardly have imagined the minor setback would prove the turning point of a day which was to see Haider turn steadfast defence into measured attack, to the tune of 15 fours in an unexpected 200-ball tour de force.