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Page last updated at 19:06 GMT, Thursday, 19 August 2010 20:06 UK

Jonathan Agnew column

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent, The Oval

Pakistan have shown a bit of character throughout the first two days of the Oval Test.

But it took the wicket of Andrew Strauss late on Thursday evening to give the tourists a strong position - and until then they might have been a bit disappointed with their lead.

That one wicket, which leaves England still 69 runs behind in their second innings, makes a big difference.

England have a lot of hard work in front of them to get rid of the deficit, and once they have done that they need to put something on the board to put Pakistan under pressure in their second innings.

There were some key moments during the day that limited what could have been a considerable Pakistan lead.

Andrew Strauss
Strauss's wicket tipped the balance firmly Pakistan's way

They were starting to take control when Graeme Swann bowled a clever ball at Mohammad Yousuf to get rid of him. And then we saw some real naivety from the Akmal brothers: Umar's run-out and the loose drive by Kamran to point.

Of England's bowlers I was impressed by Steven Finn, even though he got just one wicket.

He looks like the type who just gets on with his bowling, and does not seem to get flustered when times are tough for the bowlers. It is easy to get distracted and lose a bit of focus, and we sometimes see that with the other seamers.

Finn got his wicket with the second ball of the day, and the fact that he bowled the first over was interesting in itself.

Once the shine is off the ball this is a good pitch and I think someone should make a hundred.

England must make sure that it is one of their batsmen who plays the decisive innings of the match and the man who can do it is Alastair Cook, even though - as we have already discussed - he is under so much pressure to deliver a score.

At the start of the third day the pitch will be pretty decent, there might be a bit of slow turn for Saeed Ajmal, but Cook just needs to play well and give himself as long as he likes.

If he gets himself into some sort of form then he can stop people talking about his place in the team.

Pakistan's innings was built around the contributions of Azhar Ali (92 not out) and Yousuf (56).

It was interesting that Yousuf was able to play himself in quietly while all the attention early in the day centred around the nightwatchman Wahab Riaz, who England found difficult to dislodge.

BEN DIRS' BLOG

After lunch, Yousuf began to take centre stage and reminded us of his excellent ability - and afterwards Ali played through to the end.

His was exactly the sort of innings Pakistan have been desperate for someone to play, and it was just sad for him that Mohammad Asif got himself out once Ali had got into the 90s.

When things like this happen, you have to start wondering what goes through their heads.

Already, this Test has produced a really good game because both teams have really fallible batting - and both have the ability to be rescued by someone coming in from lower in the order.

I would be very hesitant to put too much faith in Pakistan going on to win this match.

They have caught some good catches, the bowling we know is good and consistent, but we saw them just scramble to victory chasing a low target against Australia at Headingley, and they failed at Sydney after dominating.

It would be a brave call to back Pakistan from their current position.

Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport's Oliver Brett



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see also
Swann seeks positives for England
19 Aug 10 |  England
England face battle to save Test
19 Aug 10 |  England
Swann added to top cricketer list
19 Aug 10 |  Cricket
England v Pakistan day two photos
19 Aug 10 |  England
Pakistan in England 2010
07 Sep 10 |  Cricket
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket


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FROM OTHER SPORT SITES
Liverpool Echo Pakistan closing in on Oval victory - 27 mins ago
ECB.co.uk Pakistan on course for victory - 1 hr ago
Business Recorder Aamer and Ajmal trump Cook ton as England collapse - 1 hr ago
Punjabkesari Azhar Ali builds priceless lead for Pakistan - 6 hrs ago
WA Today.com.au Ton-up for Cook but Pakistan still alive - 9 hrs ago


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