SPORT

Strong fightback by Pakistan

Ted Corbett

MULTAN: Marcus Trescothick, kicking the dust out of his crease in the way that always indicates he will make it his home for a while, batted for almost eight hours and hit 193 as England struggled to dominate Pakistan in the first Test.

His teammates were not so determined which meant that at a time when heavy scoring was required only Ian Bell with 71 and Andrew Flintoff with 45 reached the target they should have attained.

England gained a first innings lead of 144 but the top Pakistan batsmen cut back the margin rapidly and at the end of the third day the match was too close to call.

It looks as if England has blown its chance of an early victory in this three-Test series but its recent ability to win at the last minute may come to its rescue again.

Trescothick show

The first three hours belonged exclusively to Trescothick. He had 135 overnight and there was talk of a double or even a treble hundred but that was clearly not the thought at the front of Trescothick's mind.

Instead he concentrated on keeping his wicket intact on a pitch that was more difficult than the optimistic forecasters imagined against an attack with more skills than the England mindset allowed.

So runs came slowly as first the night watchman Matthew Hoggard was caught behind fencing at Shoaib Akhtar after half an hour spent collecting one and then the foolish Kevin Pietersen caught off a poor shot to his seventh ball after hitting a cover drive expertly timed.

Antipathy

There is an antipathy towards Pietersen, the loud mouth, the ostentatious dyer of his hair, the escort to celebrity models, even if he has an average of 55.52 and played the most exciting innings at the Oval to secure the Ashes.

We restrained Britons enjoy modest men. There will be those who relish the idea of Pietersen's downfall, which may not be too far away. The coach Duncan Fletcher has already indicated a shock awaits the man who so upset his teammates at Trent Bridge.

Later he hurt his elbow in a spectacular dive to save four. I bet he is not flavour of the month in the dressing room.

Crucial stand

His failure meant England was still three runs behind Pakistan's ordinary score of 274 with half its wickets gone.

Flintoff helped Trescothick restore the balance with a stand of 93 for the sixth wicket in which he batted with just the right mix of aggression and restraint for 45.

Geraint Jones produced one of his brisk, almost hyperactive, innings of 22 in 30 balls but still the size of the difference gave Pakistan hope when it should have been booking out of its hotel.

Trescothick was out with England still 12 short of its minimum target of 400 and it needed four boundaries from Giles to take England to 418 and a lead of 144; but the newly promoted captain deserves no criticism.

He passed Ricky Ponting's calendar year aggregate of 1,216 - they both still have at least five more innings in 2005 - and his career total of 5,399 runs in 67 Tests demonstrates just how important he has been to the England rise.

He is a credit to Duncan Fletcher's imagination too for the England coach spotted him in a county game when he was an overweight journeyman cricketer and turned him into a fine first slip and successful opening batsman.

Flying start

Pakistan rattled along at four an over and had 31 in the seventh when Shoaib Malik was caught by Trescothick off Harmison's second ball.

Flintoff had been given the new ball, which may have woken Harmison's inner devil. Getting Malik caught at slip was one thing; consistency was another and in the next four overs Harmison lost touch with his inner devil and bowled a spell without merit or fire.

Of course, the pitch was no aid to a striving bowler although Shoaib Akhtar had been able to get bounce and pace at will and, as Pakistan will bowl last, there is sure to be turn for Danish Kaneria, a key bowler now that Pakistan is back in the game, just 19 runs short with eight wickets in hand. Flintoff, I almost said of course, got the second wicket but the odds have now swung Pakistan's way although the last two days may be interesting.

SCOREBOARD

Pakistan — 1st innings: 274.

England — 1st innings: M. Trescothick c Akmal b Shabbir 193, A. Strauss lbw b Sami 9, I. Bell c Butt b Malik 71, P. Collingwood c Akmal b Shabbir 10, M. Hoggard c Akmal b Akhtar 1, K. Pietersen c Butt b Kaneria 5, A. Flintoff c Malik b Akhtar 45, G. Jones b Shabbir 22, A. Giles c Raza b Shabbir 16, S. Udal lbw b Akhtar 0, S. Harmison (not out) 4, Extras (b-8, lb-11, w-1, nb-22) 42, Total (in 110.4 overs) 418.

Fall of wickets: 1-18, 2-198, 3-251, 4-266, 5-271, 6-264, 7-388, 8-399, 9-400.

Pakistan bowling: Akhtar 27-2-99-3, Sami 16-1-76-1, Shabbir 22.4-7-54-4, Kaneria 27-4-106-1, Malik 18-1-64-1.

Pakistan — 2nd innings: S. Malik c Trescothick b Harmison 18, S. Butt (batting) 53, Younis Khan c Trescothick b Flintoff 48, Mohd. Sami (batting) 0, Extras (lb-2, nb-4) 6, Total (for two wkts. in 36 overs) 125.

Fall of wickets: 1-31, 2-124.

England bowling: Hoggard 7-0-26-0, Flintoff 9-2-29-1, Harmison 8-1-35-1, Udal 5-1-17-0, Giles 7-1-16-0

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