Wednesday 21 March 2018

Cricket: Cook's great work undone by collapse

Pakistan transformed the third Test against England at the Oval yesterday in a spectacular passage of bowling after tea on the third day.

Six England second-innings wickets fell for 26 runs, including Eoin Morgan, who was out for five, as they collapsed from the comparative comfort of 194-3 at tea to 221-9 when bad light stopped play.

England, who are 2-0 ahead in the four-match series, are just 146 ahead with one wicket in hand -- making Pakistan overwhelming favourites to win the game.

After Alastair Cook had ended a batting slump stretching back to the start of the season with a battling 110 including 16 boundaries, England appeared to be in no trouble on a good pitch against some lacklustre Pakistani bowling.

Cook made a fast start after coming into the match with a mere 106 runs from eight Test innings this summer.

He edged two streaky boundaries in succession through the slips off Mohammad Asif and carved Wahab Riaz for another four through the vacant fourth slip position.

Cook continued to go for his shots, contributing 87 in a second-wicket partnership of 116 with Jonathan Trott before he was caught behind for 110 off Riaz. His 100 had come up in bizarre circumstances when Asif, out of sorts all day, gathered the ball on the bounce and threw it over wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal for four overthrows.

England's rot started in the first over after tea when Kevin Pietersen was clean-bowled through the gap by off-spinner Saeed Ajmal for 23.

Ajmal, who had toiled throughout the afternoon session without reward after dismissing nightwatchman James Anderson for 11 with his first delivery of the innings, followed up by bowling Morgan.

In the meantime Trott, who had crawled to 36 in three and a half hours, was caught in the gully off Mohammad Amir. He failed to score from 110 of his 130 deliveries.

Paul Collingwood (3) and Matt Prior (5) were caught behind off Amir, who was now jagging the ball late off the pitch at high pace from the Pavilion End. Graeme Swann (6) became Ajmal's fourth victim when he was also bowled.

Amir and Ajmal had taken six wickets between them after the tea interval.

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