England's cricketers, inspired by the iconic figure of Andrew Flintoff, came through another gruelling test of character yesterday as they dismissed Pakistan for 341 in their second innings of the first Test. For much of the fourth day it appeared as though Salman Butt and Inzamam-ul-Haq would take this absorbing match out of England's reach, but the introduction of the second new ball allowed Marcus Trescothick's side to take Pakistan's last seven wickets for the addition of just 86 runs.
It left England requiring 198 for victory, and by the close they had reduced the target by 24 for the loss of Trescothick. Shabbir Ahmed claimed the wicket of England's stand-in captain, when he chopped the ball on to his off-stump. It is one of the few mistakes he has made in this Test.
As punishment Trescothick will spend the rest of the match watching helplessly and nervously from the dressing-room, but with Flintoff in his side he knows anything is possible. Watching Flintoff bowl it is hard to believe that he has only taken two five-wicket hauls in 53 Tests, and that his match figures here, 8 for 156, are the best of his career.
But they are, and England can continue to be grateful that he is the sort of character who thrives on hard work. England's bowling attack contains no shirkers but Flintoff seems to give that little bit extra when it gets tough. Matthew Hoggard may come from the other side of the Pennines but he has similar qualities and it was these two who struck incisively with the second new ball.
"The bowling is going well," an exhausted Flintoff said. "It was very satisfying to walk off with eight wickets on a pitch like that. You had to work hard and it was like a war of attrition. But you have to keep coming in, keep hitting the deck hard and, with the odd bumper thrown in, keep trying to knock off-stump out of the ground.
"We worked very hard throughout the day and we bowled well as a group. Matthew Hoggard was outstanding and Stephen Harmison chipped in with one at the start and a couple at the end. We knew it would be difficult and, after an initial burst with the new ball we knew there would be times when we had to get stuck in and dry the runs up before the arrival of the second new ball. On this occasion we took it and used it effectively. We were backed up by some excellent fielding."
Flintoff has rarely taken the new ball for England yet it could be a tactic they employ more often in the series. On pitches like this bowlers have to make the batsman play and Flintoff achieves this more than Harmison.
"I have practised bowling with the new ball in the nets, and I have done it in matches every now and then," he explained "I feel confident with the new ball but I'm sure Harmy [Harmison] is keen to get his hands back on it.
"The new ball is vital because we have not yet been able to get the old ball to reverse swing. After 80 overs the old ball looks like one the dog has chewed so we knew we had to use the second new ball well, and the period of play before tea was crucial. Prior to then Pakistan looked as though they would be in a position from which they could declare."
Mohammad Sami, the Pakistan nightwatchman, was dismissed in the third over of the day, and a fired-up Flintoff made life hard for Inzamam and Butt. Inzamam survived a very close leg-before shout, but batting became easier as Flintoff ran out of puff.
By Asian standards Butt is adour batsman. He has a good technique, a simple game plan and an excellent temperament, and like most left-handers is particularly strong through the off side. At 21 he has a bright future.
Inzamam is anything but dour. At 35 his most dynamic days are probably behind him, but he still makes batting against high-quality bowling look easy. Inzamam never looks rushed because of his ability to judge the length early, and this explains his languid movement at the crease.
Trescothick rotated his bowlers and tried different tactics throughout the morning session but it had little impact. Inzamam reached his fifty in the final over before lunch, while Butt spent the interval worrying about the run he required for a second Test century. It came off the first ball he faced, a leg stump half- volley from Ashley Giles.
Butt should have been given run out on 102, when a Paul Collingwood throw from the deep caught him dawdling, but replays failed to convince the third umpire the stumps had been broken - the bails were no longer in contact with the stumps - before his bat had crossed the line.
Butt and Inzamam's stand had reached 135, and Pakistan's lead was 122, when Trescothick chose to take the second new ball.
Hoggard struck with his second delivery when Inzamam padded up to a ball that shaped into him, and England suddenly had an end to bowl at. Mohammad Yousuf hit four boundaries before cutting Flintoff carelessly to Ian Bell in the gully.
Hasan Raza edged Flintoff to slip before a Hoggard lifter caught the edge of Butt's bat - and Pakistan had lost 4 for 30 in 8.3 overs.
Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Akhtar added 30 useful runs before Giles claimed his first wicket of the match. Shabbir bagged a pair and Kamran, aiming to take the lead past 200, was caught by Kevin Pietersen in the deep.Reuse content