Saeed puts Pakistan in control

THIRD TEST: Crawley reaches first century despite lack of support then England's bowlers make little impression; England 326; Pakistan 229-1
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As wet grey skies shifted east and the second day's play in the third Test was resumed at 2.15 pm, high summer returned to the Oval. Unfortunately it was not England who basked in the afternoon sunshine, but their opponents, as first ball then bat was wielded with skill and fury, a 135-ball century by Saeed Anwar the stunning centre piece of a telling day's cricket.

Pakistan, of course, do not need to win this match to take the series, yet judging by the pace of their innings they clearly intend to. In 56 overs, 229 runs were scored as England's bowlers managed to reduce the value of John Crawley's maiden century in a performance that was lacking in both guile or direction. In going all out for wickets, England forgot that at this level, it also pays to get the ball consistently in the right place.

Saeed Anwar, a player who needs little temptation to play his shots, took full advantage England's errors, wristily slashing and steering balls wide of off-stump down to the vacant third man boundary. He plays with an air of regal insouciance, which was made to look even more impressive by the inability of Chris Lewis and Alan Mullally to get the new ball off the straight.

Aamir Sohail, his fellow left-hander, was less delicate, hammering square anything wide with the gusto of a man given an enormous gong to strike.

Only Robert Croft, in his first bowl for England, looked at all dangerous, though judging by the volume and frequency of his shouts for lbw, the umpire is more likely to "cock a deaf 'un" than uphold one of his numerous appeals.

After the wayward probings of his opening bowlers, Atherton decided to turn to Croft as early as the 10th over. It clearly surprised the Glamorgan spinner, who would not have expected to bowl this early on a raging bunsen burner at Swansea, and he prodded himself for confirmation.

Bowling round the wicket, he forced Aamir into gratuitous use of the front pad. A method that frustrated the off-spinner, whose backchat earned him a rebuke from umpire Cyril Cooray. Still Aamir was never entirely happy and after tea, a change to the Vauxhall End proved propitious when the off-spinner had Pakistan's vice-captain caught on the drive by Dominic Cork at short extra cover.

It was England's only success as the visitor's rattled along. Quite why England left out Andrew Caddick is still a mystery, and although purists will have enjoyed seeing spinners bowling in tandem, the previous evidence - one wicket here since 1991 - is not exactly compelling, something an unbroken partnership of 123 between Ijaz Ahmed - who scored a brutal half- century - and Saeed confirmed.

If Pakistan's batsmen played the ball with nonchalant ease, the experience of England's batsmen was in stark contrast to the free scoring of the first day. John Crawley, poised six agonising runs short of a maiden Test century lost two partners advancing his score by just two, as Ian Salisbury and Dominic Cork swished unwisely.

Cork is not having the rum old time he enjoyed last year at this level. His bowling, suffering from a combination of over-exposure and lack of swing has not been as penetrative.

Despite the brittleness of England's late order, Crawley eventually reached the landmark with a trademark shot, an all-run four from a neat leg-side clip off Waqar Younis. His muted acknowledgement of the feat was refreshing, and it spoke of unfinished business at the crease.

Fortified by the potency of his actions, he promptly cut Waqar to the cover boundary, but quickly toppled is the man who feels he has the measure of Waqar. The fast bowler skidded one under Crawley's bat to hit half- way up off-stump, the Lancashire man scuppered by a combination of pace and low bounce.

His dismissal immediately curtailed England's aspirations of a big score and but for some inspired clouts from Alan Mullally, who alternated glorious drives with fortuitous top edges, England might not have topped 300.

As it was, the 326 scored, would have been a huge disappointment for the home side, with the remainder of yesterday's innings being wrapped up in less than 10 overs: the conspiracy of a new ball on a pitch that had sweated under covers, providing the extra zing for Wasim Akram (with three) and Waqar (with four) to get among the wickets.

The huge green gasometer that is a symbol of this ground was full on Thursday, when Crawley had played so well. Now, it is sinking fast. Unless England take quick wickets they will sink with it.

County reports, page 23

The Oval scoreboard

England won toss

ENGLAND - First innings

(Overnight: 278 for 6)

J P Crawley b Waqar 106

(257 min, 217 balls, 12 fours)

I D K Salisbury c Inzamam b Wasim 5

(28 min, 21 balls)

D G Cork c Moin b Waqar 0

(5 min, 5 balls)

R D B Croft not out 5

(33 min, 18 balls)

A D Mullally b Wasim 24

(21 min, 12 balls, 5 fours)

Extras (lb12, w1, nb10) 23

Total (413 min, 99.2 overs) 326

Fall (cont): 7-283 (Salisbury), 8-284 (Cork), 9-295 (Crawley).

Bowling: Wasim Akram 29.2-9-83-3 (nb8) (5-3-5-0, 4-1-17-0, 7-1-29-0, 4-1-7-0, 9.2-3-25-3); Waqar Younis 25-6-95-4 (5-1-28-0, 7-1-29-2, 5-3- 10-0, 8-1-28-2); Mohammad Akram 12-1-41-1 (nb2, w1) (3-0-18-0, 2-0-4-0, 7-1-19-1); Mushtaq Ahmed 27-5-78-2 (13-4-46-1, 14-1-32-1); Aamir Sohail 6-1-17-0 (1-0-7-0, 5-1-10-0).

Progress: Rain delayed start until 2.15pm. 300: 396 min, 96.1 overs. Innings closed: 3.03pm.

Crawley 50: 90 min, 70 balls, 6 fours. 100: 254 min, 213 balls, 11 fours.

PAKISTAN - First innings

Saeed Anwar not out 116

(232 min, 157 balls, 18 fours)

Aamir Sohail c Cork b Croft 46

(93 min, 78 balls, 7 fours)

Ijaz Ahmed not out 58

(137 min, 111 balls, 9 fours)

Extras (lb1, nb8) 9

Total (for 1, 232 min, 56 overs) 229

Fall: 1-106 (Aamir).

To bat: Inzamam-ul-Haq, Salim Malik, Asif Mujtaba, *Wasim Akram, Moin Khan, Mushtaq Ahmed, Waqar Younis, Mohammad Akram.

Bowling: Lewis 9-1-49-0 (nb4) (5-1-24-0, 4-0-25-0); Mullally 9-3-28-0 (nb2) (4-1-20-0, 5-2-8-0); Croft 17-3-42-1 (2-0-3-0, 14-2-39-1, 1-1-0- 0); Cork 7-1-38-0 (nb4) (2-0-15-0, 3-1-13-0, 2-0-10-0); Salisbury 14- 0-71-0 (10-0-46-0, 4-0-25-0).

Progress: 50: 48 min, 10.3 overs. Tea: 62-0 (Saeed Anwar 34, Aamir Sohail 23) 13 overs. 100: 86 min, 20.4 overs. 150: 148 min, 36.5 overs. 200: 191 min, 46.3 overs.

Saeed Anwar 50: 80 min, 61 mins, 9 fours. 100: 199 min, 135 balls, 16 fours. Ijaz Ahmed 50: 106 min, 88 balls, 8 fours.

Umpires: M J Kitchen (Eng) and B C Cooray (Sri Lanka).

Third umpire: J C Balderstone.

Match referee: P L van der Merwe.

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