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Saturday, Sep 26th

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Test Cricket

Century from Younus Khan puts Pakistan firmly on top in Third Test

After a shocking first day's play that saw 16 wickets fall, sanity returned to Test match cricket on day 2 of the 3rd test between England and Pakistan at the Dubai International stadium. Pakistan made use of some really good batting conditions and a flat England team to drive home the advantage. After being behind the eight-ball at stumps on day 1, having conceded  a lead with 4 English wickets still remaining, Pakistan came out firing on all cylinders on the 2nd morning and dismissed the remainder of the English side for the addition of just 37 further runs, thereby conceding only a 42 run lead. Their batsmen - Azhar Ali (75*) and Younus Khan (115*) - made merry after lunch on a placid track to put Pakistan in a very strong position at stumps.

England started day 2 at 104/6, leading Pakistan's first innings effort of 99 by a slender 5 runs. Abdur Rehman carried on from where he left off on day1 by bagging the wicket of the night watchman James Anderson (4) bowled by an arm ball that took out the middle stump. England's best player on tour so far, Stuart Broad came in at No.9 looking to repair the innings but that wasn't to be as Abdur Rehman got the better of Broad (4) by trapping him in front of the stumps.

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England squeeze out 5 run lead as 16 wickets fall on Day 1 of Dubai Test

stuart_board1Another dramatic day in a series that is amazingly short of runs saw Pakistan bowled out for an obnoxiously low score of 99 on a decent batting track in Dubai. England barely did any better in their first essay, managing to battle their way through the day to 104/6 to take a 5 run lead at the close of play on Day 1 of the Third Test. While the England pacers did most of the damage in the morning session, the Pakistani spinners were threatening to come into their own by the end of the day, leaving this match both tantalizingly poised, and for all practical purposes certain of yet another 3-day finish.

Pakistan won the toss and skipper Misbah-ul-Haq had no hesitation in opting to bat first. The hosts made one change to their series winning side for this game, bringing back pace bowler Aizaz Cheema for Junaid Khan. England slightly surprisingly opted to retain the same side for this game, giving left-handed Irishman Eoin Morgan another opportunity to impess.

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Saeed Ajmal has got England's number

It does not happen very often that an over-hyped phenomenon is able to live up to its pre-match banter. Even if some elements of the talk come true; the hype generally gets the better of the action. But Saeed Ajmal's role in the ongoing test series between England and Pakistan has somewhat contradicted this instinctively believed notion. The complete clueless-ness of the English batsmen to tackle the guile of Saeed Ajmal is bringing back memories of a rampant Shane Warne, who had Englishmen dancing to his beat in the 1990s, and while comparisons between Ajmal and Warne may yet be premature, there is no doubt the Pakistani offie is affecting players both mentally and on the pitch.

Not surprisingly, some of the efforts to counter the threat of Ajmal started before even the first ball of this series was bowled. Some debates, not necessarily arguments or allegations got instigated from the UK, led by the great Bob Willis regarding the training on the bowling of the doosra in English academies and utilizing the 15 degree bend rule in an optimized manner. Some other politically correct statements regarding the role of the ICC; which cannot be entirely ignored, whiffed at the discomfort faced by the English batsmen. That these comments didn't diminish after the Dubai test made it crystal clear that this debate was here to stay.

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$175,000 rides on outcome of England - Pakistan 3rd Test

Despite Pakistan having already won its seventh series out of 11 against England since 1983-84, there is still a lot to play for in the third and final Test which starts in Dubai on Friday 3 February. For England, the equation is very simple and straightforward – it has to win the Test to be guaranteed a number-one spot at the 1 April cut-off date and with it a US$175,000 prize which is presented annually to the side which tops the Reliance ICC Test Championship table at the cut-off date.

If England wins the Test, it will finish on 120 ratings points and will top the table irrespective of how South Africa's three-Test series in New Zealand, to be played from 7-27 March, pans out.

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Spinners wreck England again as Pakistan win 2nd test comfortably by 72 runs

eoin_morgan1Day 4 of the 2nd test match between England and Pakistan at the Sheikh Zayed stadium in Abh Dhabi turned out to be cracker of a day with some gripping test match cricket from both sides culminating eventually in a Pakistani win that helped them gain an unassailable 2-0 lead in the 3 match series.

The day started off with England on top with Pakistan just 55 runs ahead and having lost some key top order wickets on day 3. England drove home the advantage and dismissed Pakistan for 214 in their second innings thanks to a 6 wicket haul from left arm spinner Monty Panesar. Having to chase just 145 for victory, the English batsmen were yet again found wanting against spin on a wearing wicket and capitulated to a lowly 72 all out on the back of a career best of 6/25 from left arm spinner Abdur Rehman. None of the English batsmen barring captain Andrew Strauss (32) put forth any resistance in the final innings in what was truly a dreadful display from the world No.1 side.

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