Ajmal saves Pakistan from difficult situation
The responsibility rests with skipper Misbahul Haq, but his bowlers and the wicket keeper too will have to share the blame for misguiding him all the time. They were doubly guilty of, first, not demanding the DRS at times when Alistair Cook and Jonathan Trot were plum in front, and secondly, relying on the technology when deliveries from Umar Gul and the two spinners, Rehman, and Ajmal, were clearly wide off the stumps. At the second dayís close, the contest looked evenly placed to many, but, in all fairness, England was still in better position, though only slightly.
Pakistan was back in the game at the end, but will have to put up yet another sterling performance Friday morning to make it genuinely balanced. Pakistani bowlers will have to bowl their hearts out on the third morning to restrict the rivals to as low a lead as possible. They have a hard task ahead of getting rid of Ian Bell, and Mat Prior, and then polishing off the tail, consisting of Broad, Swann and Anderson.
England did a marvelous job on Thursday, winding up the Pakistan innings in just 16 balls, for the addition of only run to the overnight total of 256 for 7. The entire tail failed to register a single run, but that will not be the case with the England side. Their batting ends with Prior, joining Ian Bell tomorrow after Ajmal in the last over the day, had Eoin Morgan caught in the slips by Hafeez off a thin edge, inches off the ground. Hafiz had earlier brought off yet another spectacular catch to remove Kevin Pieterson.
Pakistan bowlers found it hard to gain rhythm on Thursday, Umar Gull, especially, looking rusty and untidy, as if he was overworked or had some kind of a nightmare during sleep. Rehman bowled well, but Ajmal could not extract the turn which Swann and Panisar had found when Pakistan batted on the first day.
Stock off spinner, Hafeez, once again strengthened his claim as a genuine all rounder, and earned the prized scalp of skipper Strauss very early in the innings. He forced Strauss, opening with Cook for the 100th time for England, to misread him and committed the folly of being on the back foot. The edge from his bat, rebounded from the pads, and Hafeez in the leg slip brought off an exemplary catch, diving full length to beat the wicket keeper.
But then Cook and Trott put their heads down and though they punished the loose ones, their foremost consideration was to forge ahead of the Pakistani total to furnish a platform their oncoming batsmen to cash on their 139-run partnership in 50 over during which they defied the same Pakistani attack which had mesmerized them in the Dubai fixture. It was left armer Rehman to bring back the smiles on his faces of his team mates, through a beauty that deceived Trott completely, and took his off stump. Once the partnership , looking ominous, was broken, the Pakistani spirit was back and players doubled their efforts to earn as many wickets as possible to keep England under pressure.
It was however, after tea, that the real drama began when Saeed Ajmal took three wickets and at the same time kept Bell and Morgan in complete control. They could manage barely 4 runs in 34 deliveries and seemed clueless about Ajmalís magic, which had begun to unfold once again after the bowler had struggled for a considerably long time during earlier stages of the dayís play. He had begun to turn the ball, sometime menacingly, and so did Rehman. Morganís wicket in the end, brought Pakistan back into the game and now an exciting and absorbing dayís play is well in store for Friday. The turf is result oriented. All Pakistan has to do is to either claim the rest of the innings rather early, or not allow England to take a lead of more than 30 off runs. England has to bat last and any lead of 250 plus will be traumatic for them in the end. Pakistan can hope for winning the series, but fans and experts need to keep their fingers crossed.