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Jonathan Agnew column

Third Test, The Oval: England v Pakistan
Dates: 18-22 August Start time: 1100 BST
Coverage: Live ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC 5 live sports extra, BBC Radio 4 Long Wave and BBC Sport website; live text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles; Also live on Sky Sports, with daily highlights on Five

England captain Andrew Strauss speaks with Jonathan Agnew
Captain Andrew Strauss speaks with Jonathan Agnew ahead of the game

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

Four years on, the acrimony surrounding the first and only Test match in history to be forfeited has long since evaporated - at least from the minds of the England and Pakistan players.

On 20 August 2006 the match was abandoned on day four when Pakistan declined to take the field after tea after earlier being penalised for doctoring the match ball.

One of the principal protagonists that day, umpire Darrell Hair, is writing a book on the subject and the law relating to ball-tampering has now been adjusted to ensure that such a stand-off is unlikely ever to happen again.

However, in order for the unhappy event to be firmly cast into distant memory the upcoming third Test between the sides at The Oval needs to pass off competitively, but calmly.

606: DEBATE
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There are still rumblings in the Pakistan camp about Stuart Broad's flash of ill temper at Edgbaston to the extent that he is now being blamed for causing the fracture to Zulqarnain Haider's finger that has forced the characterful wicketkeeper to return home.

England captain Andrew Strauss, with an eye on long hot days in the field in Australia, has again spoken of the need for England to remain disciplined and focused when things are not going their way - a tacit reprimand for his pace bowler who pushes the line too often.

From Strauss's perspective, it was not so much the ball-throwing incident - although he does not condone that - but the missed run-out during the following over when Broad, still distracted and angry, fired the return wildly over Graeme Swann's head, and the opportunity was lost.

It is precisely the sort of thing that could be the difference between winning and losing the Ashes.

Clearly the onus is now on Pakistan to arrest England's march towards a 4-0 whitewash.

Stuart Broad (far right) has words with Pakistan batsman Zulquarnain Haider
England hope Broad (far right) can keep his discipline during the third Test

Mohammad Yousuf looks certain to return as Pakistan desperately seek some resilience to a batting line-up that has been blown away far too easily in the course of this series.

It remains a lot for one man to do - especially one that has played such little competitive cricket recently - but he managed an unbeaten 40 against Worcestershire last week and has an outstanding record against England.

With cloudy and unsettled conditions expected to prevail throughout, Pakistan's swing bowlers should have the elements in the favour once again.

This will not come as great news to Alastair Cook, whose position must now be under the microscope.

I can see why the selectors gave him this opportunity on what should be the flattest pitch of the series, but should he fail again, he will have to be dropped to maintain the integrity of the selection process, and ensure that county cricketers are not denied the incentive to play for England.



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see also
Strauss support for Cook & Swann
17 Aug 10 |  England
Ponting targets Ashes whitewash
16 Aug 10 |  Australia
Pakistan lose injured Zulqarnain
16 Aug 10 |  Pakistan
England complete comfortable win
09 Aug 10 |  England
Strauss pleased to maintain run
09 Aug 10 |  England
Broad fined for throwing incident
09 Aug 10 |  England
Pakistan in England 2010
07 Sep 10 |  Cricket
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket


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