Graeme Swann, going from strength to strength, as the world’s best off-spinner, has taken his best figures of 6/60 to bring England to the verge of victory in the second test against Pakistan at Edgbaston, on Sunday.
Starting the third day’s play at their overnight score of 19/1, Pakistan pushed the score along to 53, when Swann struck in his very first over. The third ball looped in on the leg stump and danced past Imran Farhat’s bat to take the off stump – 53/2.
One run later, it was Azhar Ali’s turn to be dismissed by Swann, by a ball tossed up outside the off stump, inviting the drive, a classic off-spinner’s dismissal, as the ball spun in to castle the batsman, even as the batsman failed to go sufficiently forward to get bat on ball – 54/3.
Shoaib Malik’s litany of recent woes with the bat continued when Finn joined the England party with a seaming delivery that kissed Malik’s glove on way to keeper Prior – 76/4.
Umar Akmal played himself in and was on 20, and just when there were visions of a Pakistan fight-back led by this talented young player, he chose not to play a stroke to a Swann delivery that came in from outside off, and was given out LBW.
An UDRS appeal against the decision followed and was negated when the replay showed the ball taking the bails – 82/5.
After a partnership that fell short of its promise, Umar Amin playing forward to a Swann delivery failed to get his rear foot back into the crease even as Prior effected a smart stumping – 101/6.
Next came a mini fight-back as Md Amir joined debutant keeper Zulqarnain Haider. England needed Broad to break the partnership. Strauss at slip did the honours, as an expansive drive by Amir to a ball in the zone outside off came to nought – 153/7.
Now began the partnership of the day, and arguably that of the match, with Saeed Ajmal and debutant Zulqarnain Haider giving the Pakistan top order a lesson in innings building.
The pair added 113 runs for the 8th wicket in a partnership that must act as a beacon for Pakistan’s young guns to follow, in the coming days, if their test cricket is not be reduced to farce.
But all good things must come to an end. And Swann proved once again that he is no ugly duckling on a cricket field as he brought the fighting partnership to an end.
A round-the-wicket ball that took the right hander’s edge as it spun across him was Saeed Ajmal’s undoing, with Collingwood bringing off a tumbling catch – 268/8.
A run later, England saw the back of Zulqarnain Haider, as Strauss brought off a diving catch at mid off to give Swann his sixth – 269/9.
Pakistan were 90 runs ahead at this stage and England would have wanted to wrap things up quickly. But there was a little sting left in the Pakistan tail, and Md Asif and Umar Gul kept the Pakistan ship afloat by adding 22 runs by close of play.
The pair are still there, and every run they add could prove costly for England, as Pakistan have the guns in their bowling armoury to catch the best team on the wrong foot, as they proved against Australia, earlier this year.
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Jinxatious is the Chief Editor of SportingAttitude.com
An avid writer, on an eclectic range of subjects, he brings to bear editorial experience garnered with a national newspaper in South-East Asia. He also has sportscasting experience, as a cricket commentator, and his passion for sport extends beyond Cricket, to Football, Tennis, and Olympic Sports.