England 347-6 Pakistan: Pietersen rides his luck to thrive in holding role for England

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Kevin Pietersen made the most of his good fortune on the first day of the third Test to take England into a commanding position against Pakistan here yesterday. Pietersen's fifth Test century was made in typically swashbuckling style and it enabled England to reach 347 for 6 at the end of an enthralling day's play.

Pakistan, after seeing several crucial umpiring decisions go against them, had every reason to feel disappointed with the way events unfolded and they now face an uphill challenge to stay in the Test. The pitch, despite England's total, has offered the faster bowlers assistance and Pakistan's seam attack was guilty of bowling too short on a surface that rewarded those who pitched the ball up. Umar Gul, with 4 for 73, was the most successful Pakistan bowler but, overall, the tourists will have been disappointed with their efforts.

Pietersen should have been given out twice before passing 20 and was caught behind off a no-ball when on 29. He was also dropped at midwicket the ball before retiring hurt with cramps in his left forearm. The departure of Pietersen on 104 allowed Chris Read to join Ian Bell and, after a nervous start, the England wicketkeeper gave glimpses of why he has been recalled.

Read was dropped for Geraint Jones in 2004 because he had failed to score enough runs and he played several crisp strokes while equalling his previous best score. But on 38 he played back to a fullish ball and was trapped leg before by Umar Gul. Matthew Hoggard, the nightwatchman, perished in the final over of the day to give Pakistan some reward for their efforts.

Bell continued to look in magnificent form and was unbeaten on 66 at the close. For the third consecutive Test he appeared the most assured of England's batsmen and he has an excellent chance of scoring a third successive century this morning.

After Pietersen used up two "lives", his third life proved his best knock, even though he survived an adjacent lbw appeal by Danish Kaneria. If Pietersen kicks on this morning, he could take his side to the brink of a series victory.

Pietersen only began to complain about his forearm when in the nineties but it did not seem to affect his batting. After flicking Mohammad Sami through the leg side for four, and moving to 91, the England physiotherapist was summoned for the first time. Then, following treatment, Pietersen majestically drove Sami down the ground twice to move to 99, before calling for him again. Pietersen's hundred, his third of the summer, was reached in the same over when he deflected Sami to fine leg. The moment was warmly greeted by a near capacity crowd.

Andrew Strauss must have been horrified to see grey cloud covering Headingley when he walked out to bat with Marcus Trescothick. Thirty minutes earlier, and with the sun threatening to break through, the England captain had opted to bat on winning the toss but, historically, overcast conditions here tend to provide bowlers with excellent conditions to ply their trade.

Despite the bowler-friendly climate, Strauss and Trescothick gave their side a wonderful start, scoring at almost five runs an over against undisciplined Pakistan bowling. Sami was the most culpable member of the tourists' attack, pitching the ball far too short on a surface that rewards those who bowl a fuller length.

Strauss took advantage, cutting Sami to the backward point boundary a couple of times and clipping the bowler through square-leg when he overcompensated. Trescothick looked far less convincing. Having scored 39 runs in the first two Tests, the opener was in need of a decent score yet, after pulling Gul over midwicket three times, he chipped a catch back to Sami.

Strauss, who survived a strong caught-behind appeal on 34 - replays showed that the ball did make contact with his bat - fell in the next over when he pushed tentatively at a ball from Shahid Nazir and was well caught by Younis Khan at second slip.

With England on 67 for 2, Pakistan were back in the game and, but for two further umpiring errors they would have been in total control of the Test. Pietersen was on two and England on 77 for 2 when umpire Darrell Hair gave him the benefit of the doubt after a delivery from Nazir deflected off his bat on to his thigh and carried through to Kamran Akmal.

Pakistan had just about recovered from the injustice when Alastair Cook became the third batsman to be given a second life. Umpire Billy Doctrove turned down a ferocious caught-behind appeal from Sami but Cook, like Pietersen, had inside-edged the ball through to Akmal. England remained on 80 for 2 but they should have been 80 for 4.

For a bowler and the fielding side there is nothing more galling than seeing straightforward decisions go against you. Inzamam-ul-Haq was more animated than at any stage of the series and he, along with his players, did well to keep their composure. The annoying thing for players is that some umpires seem more concerned about whether a bowler's foot is a millimetre over the front line than making the correct decision at the far end. Umpires would be better off forgetting no-balls, unless the bowler's foot is well over the front line, and concentrating on making important decisions because a centimetre here or there makes absolutely no difference at all.

Cook failed to make the most of his luck when he chipped the last ball before lunch back to the bowler. On seeing Gul take a diving catch Cook stood there in disbelief, but he had to go.

Paul Collingwood joined Pietersen after the interval and his first came via a hooked six off Gul. Pietersen had been watchful but the prospect of someone stealing his limelight stirred him into action. Sami was slapped for two boundaries and Kaneria was hacked over long-off for six. Nazir was driven down the ground twice before being pulled for four, a stroke that brought up his half-century.

Collingwood became the fourth England player to lose his wicket after getting himself in, when he carelessly pulled Gul to Taufeeq Umar at deep square-leg, but his departure gave Pietersen, Bell, and then Read the chance to strengthen the team's position further.

Scoreboard from Headingley

England won toss; first day of five

England - First innings

M E Trescothick c and b Mohammad Sami 28

70 min, 59 balls, 6 fours

*A J Strauss c Younis Khan b Shahid Nazir 36

75 min, 43 balls, 5 fours

A N Cook c and b Umar Gul 23

49 min, 32 balls, 4 fours

K P Pietersen retired hurt 104

200 min, 131 balls, 15 fours, 2 sixes

P D Collingwood c Taufeeq Umar b Umar Gul 31

95 min, 70 balls, 2 fours, 1 six

I R Bell not out 66

165 min, 126 balls, 6 fours

ÝC M W Read lbw b Umar Gul 38

92 min, 74 balls, 4 fours, 1 six

M J Hoggard b Umar Gul 0

11 min, 12 balls

Extras (b 7, lb 5, w 0, nb 9, pens 0) 21

Total (for 6, 381 min, 89.4 overs) 347

Fall: 1-67 (Trescothick) 2-67 (Strauss) 3-110 (Cook) 4-192 (Collingwood) 5-345 (Read) 6-347 (Hoggard).

To bat: S I Mahmood, S J Harmison, M S Panesar.

Bowling: Mohammad Sami 19-1-102-1 (nb5) (4-0-22-0. 6-0-36-1. 4-1-16-0. 3-0-22-0. 2-0-6-0); Umar Gul 18.4-3-73-4 (nb2) (6-1-26-0. 4-1-13-1. 1-0-6-0. 3-0-23-1. 4.4-1-5-2); Shahid Nazir 22-6-62-1 (nb2) (8-3-19-1. 6-2-18-0. 5-0-17-0. 3-1-8-0); Danish Kaneria 24-3-72-0 (1-0-1-0. 2-1-1-0. 16-1-57-0. 5-1-13-0); Taufeeq Umar 2-0-8-0; Salman Butt 4-0-18-0 (one spell each).

Progress: First day: 50: 48 min, 12 overs. 100: 107 min, 23.1 overs. Lunch: 110-3 (Pietersen 17) 26.1 overs. 150: 168 min, 37.1 overs. 200: 223 min, 49.3 overs. Tea: 224-4 (Pietersen 82, Bell 9) 54 overs. 250: 265 min, 58.5 overs. Pietersen retired hurt 104 at 259-4 after 61 overs. 300: 321 min, 73.4 overs. New ball taken after 80.3 overs at 328-4.

Pietersen's 50: 116 min, 79 balls, 8 fours, 1 six. 100: 182 min, 123 balls, 15 fours, 2 sixes. Bell's 50: 116 min, 101 balls, 5 fours.

Pakistan: Taufeeq Umar, Salman Butt, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, *Inzamam-ul-Haq, Faisal Iqbal, ÝKamran Akmal, Shahid Nazir, Mohammad Sami, Umar Gul, Danish Kaneria.

Umpires: B R Doctrove (WI) and D B Hair (Aus).

TV replay umpire: N J Llong (Eng).

Match referee: R S Madugalle (S Lanka).