Sat, Aug 19, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Asif returns to gut England top order

CRICKET Mohammad Asif on Thursday showed what Pakistan has been missing, while Imran Farhat helped the visitors to turn up the heat even further yesterday

AFP , LONDON

Pakistan's Mohammad Asif bowls during the first day of the Fourth and final Test cricket match between England and Pakistan at London's Oval on Thursday.

PHOTO: AFP

Mohammad Asif marked his return to Test cricket with four wickets as Pakistan salvaged some pride on the first day of the fourth and final Test against England at The Oval on Thursday.

His four for 56 in 19 overs was instrumental in England being bowled out for a meager 173 -- their lowest first innings total since they slumped to 155 all out in the opening match of last year's Ashes series at Lord's.

At stumps Pakistan were 96 for one, a deficit of 77.

Imran Farhat was 56 not out and Mohammad Yousuf, the second batsman after India's Rahul Dravid to have scored 1,000 Test runs this year, unbeaten on 12.

But England dropped three catches in five Matthew Hoggard deliveries.

Up until this match Pakistan had been without all three of their leading quicks in Shoaib Akhtar (ankle), Rana Naved (groin) and Asif (elbow) during a series they could now no longer win at 2-0 down.

Asif showed what Pakistan had been missing, his haul including a spell of three top-order wickets for four runs in 11 balls.

New-ball partner Umar Gul, who was left on a hat-trick, mopped up the tail on his way to four for 47 in 15.2 overs.

Only three England batsmen made double figures with Alastair Cook's 40 the top score after Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq won the toss and elected to field in what were then overcast conditions.

Pakistan's reply began with their fourth opening partnership of the series.

Mohammad Hafeez, playing his first Test since September 2003 when he made the last of three appearances against Bangladesh, and Farhat, fit again after a finger injury, replaced the dropped Salman Butt and Taufeeq Umar.

Both Hoggard and Stephen Harmison wasted the new ball as the skies brightened while first-change Sajid Mahmood was also wayward.

Hafeez, who had strapping applied around his right knee, then retired hurt on eight having put on 35 in eight overs with Farhat.

England, in their final Test before their Ashes defense starts in Brisbane in November, gave the impression their minds were elsewhere as their fielding became increasingly sloppy.

But as shadows lengthened across the pitch, Younis Khan (nine) was caught down the legside by wicket-keeper Chris Read off the fortunate Mahmood.

Then Farhat, on 49, powerfully cover-drove Hoggard and a leaping Paul Collingwood couldn't hold the sharp chance.

The resulting single saw Farhat complete a 63-ball 50 with seven fours.

Next ball Yousuf, on five, edged the Yorkshire swing bowler and first slip Marcus Trescothick, perhaps distracted by wicket-keeper Chris Read's initial movement, dropped the chance.

Yousuf, on nine, was given another life when Cook failed to hold a low chance in the gully after the batsman had opened the face against Hoggard.

England had slumped to 134 for six at tea after Asif had taken two wickets in as many balls.

He had England captain and opener Andrew Strauss (38) well caught by diving wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal off an outside edge.

And next ball Kevin Pietersen, whose 158 at The Oval sealed England's Ashes series wining draw against Australia last year, advanced down the pitch only to nick Asif, in for the dropped Mohammad Sami, to Akmal for nought.

Asif was on a hat-trick at the start of his next over, but Cook survived.

But when the 23-year-old had all-rounder Collingwood LBW for five to a delivery that nipped back England were 64 for four.

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