The
stage was set for an enthralling final day of the third Test between England and Pakistan. With 90 overs ahead of them,
Pakistan needed 323 for victory. After
Pakistan showed great form with the
bat in the first innings, and with the pitch offering very little to the
bowlers, the match looked headed for a close finish.

Such
is power of pressure, and such is Pakistan’s frailty in tight
situations, that contest never eventuated. The result was known by the
lunch break with Pakistan on their knees at five for 84.
They were all out in the 48th over with only 155 on the board.

Younis
Khan was the only batsmen to show any resistance, following up his first
innings 173 with a gritty 41. Although Inzamam-ul-Haq was carrying a chest
injury, he batted down the order and recorded the second top score of 37, but
it wasn’t enough to keep Imran Khan from accusing the team of spinelessness and
the coaching staff of ineptitude.

So
why should this concern Australian cricket fans? Because it involves a
resurgent England. It’s their first series win
since the Ashes, and though Pakistan limply conceded defeat, England showed the
strength of will and the skill to rout them on an unhelpful surface. After the
match, Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer said England had all the firepower they
needed to defend the Ashes, especially after winning a series against his team
without the likes of Andrew Flintoff to contribute with bat or ball.

English
opener Andrew Strauss added: “Success breeds success and hopefully we can go
out and do it again (in the fourth Test) at The Oval and we’ll be in a very
good position to look forward to the Ashes.” English coach Duncan Fletcher
didn’t stop there, claiming Monty Panesar, who has claimed 16 wickets in series
so far, is the best finger spinner in the world right now
and is close to securing a regular spot in the team.

Regardless
of the result in the final Test, England has climbed back into second place on
the ICC rankings,
meaning the looming Ashes battle is both a contest for bragging rights and a shoot-out between the top two teams in Test cricket.

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Peter Fray
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