Sparkling Thorpe puts England on top

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The Independent Online

Graham Thorpe put the focus firmly back on to on-field events with a masterful 88 to lift England against a Patron's XI.

Graham Thorpe put the focus firmly back on to on-field events with a masterful 88 to lift England against a Patron's XI.

The Surrey left-hander was in sparkling form as he helped the tourists reach 212 for four, just 25 behind their Pakistani hosts.

His innings lifted attention from match-fixing allegations against former captain Alec Stewart.

Thorpe, skipper in the absence of Nasser Hussain, hit 10 boundaries in a three-hour knock on the second day of the four-day game.

Having dismissed their opponents for a lowly 237 with Matthew Hoggard claiming five for 62, England wanted all their batsmen to have extended practice against two fast bowlers on the fringe of Pakistan's side and two emerging spinners.

Instead, they witnessed three of their leading batsmen fall in a five over spell and had to rely on Thorpe's expertise to steer them out of trouble on 52 for three.

Marcus Trescothick paid the penalty for driving away from his body to former Northamptonshire fast bowler Mohammad Akram and was caught at slip while Michael Vaughan was surprised by a quick delivery which cut back in and was caught behind off the inside edge.

Even Michael Atherton, normally able to adjust quickly to foreign conditions, pushed too strongly at Mohammad Sami and was caught at backward point and give Thorpe the stage to deliver a timely tonic.

Even the introduction of spin pair Mohammad Shafiq and Munir Ansari could not unsettle Thorpe's resolve and he dominated the early stages of his 143-run partnership with Graeme Hick, who once again looked shaky when confronted by Pakistan slow bowlers.

Thorpe reached his half-century in just 87 deliveries and finally fell just seven overs before the close by edging Qaiser Abbas to Mohammad Wasim at slip.

Hick, hesitant initially, finally began to settle and launched Shafiq, who is moulded in the same style as Indian leg-spinner Anil Kumble, for two sixes back over his head and finished unbeaten on 77.

Yorkshire seamer Hoggard had earlier improved his Test selection chances with his first five wicket haul for England while Dominic Cork and Trescothick grabbed two wickets apiece as the Patron's XI collapsed from their overnight 188 for five.

Hoggard claimed two wickets inside his first eight balls, striking with the opening delivery of the day to trap left hander Qaiser Abbas leg before after a superb 71 spanning over two hours at the crease and including nine boundaries.

England's newest fast bowling hope showed his ever-expanding repertoire in his next over, delivering a perfectly-executed slower ball to wreck new batsman Javed Qadeer's stumps.

The tourists were hoping Hoggard would wrap up the rest of the innings quickly, but instead he suffered a frustrating time by beating the bat on a regular basis with all edges falling just short of fielders.

Cork finally ended stubborn the Patron's XI resistance with two late wickets while Trescothick continued his progress into a useful seam option by wrapping up the innings to finish with two for 12.

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