England on course, despite Cook setback

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The Independent Online

England recovered from the early loss of Alastair Cook to stand on the verge of victory by lunch on day four of the second npower Test against Pakistan at Edgbaston.

Cook's departure left England seven for one, in pursuit of 118. But captain Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott responded with a calm and unbroken half-century stand to take their team to 71.

England were therefore near certain winners of their sixth successive Test by early afternoon to open up a 2-0 lead in the four-match series, as they continue to advertise their credentials for next winter's Ashes.

Pakistan's second innings finished on 296 all out, in only the second over of a sunny morning when number 11 Mohammad Asif was last out - pushing a simple catch to gully off Stuart Broad.

England's pursuit then began unconvincingly on a surface where low bounce - and turn for off-spinner Saeed Ajmal - had become the main dangers.

Cook extended his run of poor form, stuck on the crease to Mohammad Aamer and bowled by one he would surely have intercepted somehow if he had got forward.

Apart from the early jolt to England's confidence, and boost for Pakistan's, Cook's seventh successive Test score under 30 - since his hundred in Dhaka five months ago - added to the ongoing concern about his poor productivity.

There would have been plenty more for England to worry about had Zulqarnain Haider, Pakistan's batting hero yesterday, clung on to an outside edge when Strauss went after a short ball in Ajmal's first over.

That would have been 17 for two - with both openers gone. But Pakistan, whose catching has been faulty all match, could not afford any such slips in an equation which allowed them no room for error.

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