Flintoff strikes to give England hope

Andrew Flintoff took two wickets in two balls to revive England’s hopes just when it seemed they were running out of time to force the result they need in Faisalabad to have any chance of registering a seventh successive Test series victory.

Andrew Flintoff took two wickets in two balls to revive England’s hopes just when it seemed they were running out of time to force the result they need in Faisalabad to have any chance of registering a seventh successive Test series victory.

Following defeat in Multan last week, England must win here to have any chance of pulling off an unlikely fightback to take this three-match series – but by midway through the short evening session on day four Flintoffhad booted the door ajar as Pakistan stumbled to 164 for five in their second innings, 180 ahead overall.

First, England’s premier all-rounder had Mohammad Yousuf edging on to his stumps – and next ball he ripped out the dangerous Shahid Afridi’s middle-stump with a delivery which appeared to veer late into the batsman and keep a little low.

The tourists had got their first wicket when Flintoff saw off Shoaib Malik, the opener driving uppishly to cover – much as he had when he was out in the first innings.

Otherwise, though, Michael Vaughan ran through all his frontline options to no avail as Salman Butt (50) and number three Younis Khan booked in with intent on a pitch which still strongly favoured the batsmen.

Flintoff in particular was inventive as he tried to make things happen with changes of pace, hand action and line of attack – but on a surface like this the best hope for a wicket remained batsman error.

Vaughan’s tactics therefore appeared to amount to an attempt to bore the opposition out, and in the course of a 50-run second-wicket stand Butt and Younis responded with limited ambition as exactly 100 balls went by between boundaries at one stage.

When England did get their second break it came from an innocuous Matthew Hoggard loosener, Younis playing across a straight ball to go lbw.

They had a little luck on their side too over the dismissal only four runs later of Butt, who would not have been on strike for another lbw verdict – won by Shaun Udal from a delivery which might well have gone on to miss leg – had umpire Darrell Hair not sent the left-hander back when he picked up a ‘single’ from the previous ball only to be judged to have run straight up the middle of the wicket.

Under the laws of the game, the course Butt took was enough for a ‘dead-ball’ signal – because he had already been warned for doing the same thing earlier in his innings.

Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq – who were to put on 56 – each had a scare before tea, the former mis-hitting a lofted drive just over mid-off from the bowling of Udal and his captain struck in line with off-stump as Flintoff appealed for an lbw decision which might easily have been successful.

England were indebted this morning to last pair Stephen Harmison and Udal for burgling 47 runs together to sneak up to 446 all out and a deficit of only 16 when they had looked likely to finish awkwardly adrift on first innings after losing their eighth and ninth wickets for the addition of only eight runs as Afridi threatened to make short work of the tail.

Ashley Giles was stuck on a leg-stump line when Afridi (four for 95) knocked out middle with a quick leg-break, and then Hoggard paid for his unaccustomed adventure – playing a shot in anger for once – as he dragged a delivery from outside leg on to his stumps via his forearm.

Udal was therefore joined by last man Harmison and decided rightly to take on Shoaib Akhtar while he could, snatching 16 bonus runs in one over – among them one mistimed hook for four and another right out of the middle for six.

Harmison got the idea against the spin of Afridi and Danish Kaneria, producing some clever cricket shots.

It was a passage of play which must have infuriated Pakistan – especially when Rana Naved dropped Udal in the deep off Kaneria – and there was a touch of relief about their celebrations when a run-out mix-up over a single finally brought Harmison’s wicket.

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