Ali packs a punch against England

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Azhar Ali's Test-best 92 put Pakistan in a strong position against England at the close of the second day of the third Test at The Oval on Thursday.

Updated: August 20, 2010 17:42 IST
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Azhar Ali's Test-best 92 put Pakistan in a strong position against England at the close of the second day of the third Test at The Oval on Thursday.

And before stumps there was still time for Pakistan, 2-0 down in this four-match series, to dismiss England captain Andrew Strauss (four), caught at second slip by Yasir Hameed off left-arm quick Mohammad Aamer.

England were left on the defensive at six for one at stumps in their second innings, 69 runs behind, despite Graeme Swann having reached the landmark of a hundred Test wickets earlier in the day.

Struggling opening batsman Alastair Cook was nought not out and nightwatchman James Anderson unbeaten on two.

Ali's innings was the cornerstone of Pakistan's 308, which gave them a first innings lead of 75.

"I would love to have scored a hundred ... but we are in the driving seat just now and will try to keep the pressure on England," Ali told Sky Sports. Pakistan's poor catching has been a feature of the series.

But on Thursday it was England who paid the price for missing a routine chance when Strauss, at first slip, put down Mohammad Asif when the No 11 was on four and Ali on 66.

Pakistan were then 278 for nine but, with Ali seizing on anything either over-pitched or short from Stuart Broad, the last-wicket pair added 38 runs.

The 25-year-old Ali's second fifty in five matches at this level, after he made 51 in Pakistan's three-wicket win over Australia at Headingley last month, was not a lone hand.

Veteran batsman and former captain Mohammad Yousuf marked his return to international cricket with a well-made 56 before he became off-spinner Swann's 100th Test wicket, having put on 69 with Ali.

Former captain Yousuf was playing his first Test since January following the overturning of an "indefinite ban" imposed by the Pakistan Cricket Board after he led the side on their winless tour of Australia.

But shortly before tea he drove too early at a Swann delivery from around the wicket and was caught and bowled to end a 108-ball innings featuring eight boundaries.

It meant Swann had taken his 100th wicket in 23 Tests, with only India's Erapalli Prasanna (20 Tests) and South Africa's Hugh Tayfield (22) quicker to the landmark amongst off-spinners.

Swann, who led England's attack with four wickets for 68 runs, took his hundredth wicket on the day he was added to the long list for the ICC Cricketer of the Year, having been controversially omitted when the original 16 candidates were announced on Wednesday.

"I 100 per cent didn't realise," Swann told Sky Sports. "I thought 'it's quite nice I'm in there' but everyone in the changing room was saying I wasn't in originally."

Swann was especially pleased to capture the wicket of Yousuf, who before this match had a Test average against England of 70.

"It was nice to watch him bat - he's a class player - so I'm delighted to get him as my 100th victim."

Australia leg-spin great Shane Warne also took his 100th Test wicket in his 23rd match and Swann said: "For me, Shane Warne is the greatest spin bowler to live so if I can match him to 100 then hopefully I can match him to 600."

Ali, on 62 when Asif came in, was left just short of a maiden Test hundred when the seamer drove Swann straight to Anderson at mid-off.

He faced 176 balls with 14 boundaries.

Pakistan, bowled out for record low scores against England of 80 and 72 in crushing defeats by 354 runs and nine wickets in the first and second Tests respectively, were still on their overnight score of 48 for one when recalled opener Hameed was caught behind off Steven Finn.

Swann then struck with his second ball on Thursday when Pakistan captain Salman Butt, in at No 4 after opening this series, was caught behind.

The off-spinner then removed stubborn nightwatchman Wahab Riaz for 27 when the impressive debutant, who took five wickets on Wednesday, was lbw trying to sweep the first ball of Swann's second spell.

But Yousuf and Ali made sure Riaz's two hours of resistance was worthwhile.

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