When the third day of the fourth and final Test at The Oval began, the game was well balanced. Although Pakistan had a slender lead of 12 runs, they had only four wickets left. England ended day two of a high, having claimed some crucial late wickets. As such, they would have been confident of blowing away the tail even though Younis Khan was in there with a hundred. But, by the end of day’s play, they found their chances of saving the Test hanging by a thread, as they collapsed to 88 for 4. This was after a masterful innings of 218 from Younis gave Pakistan a 200-plus lead.
Facing a huge deficit, England were looking up to their skipper Alastair Cook for some inspiration with the bat. But Cook, who was not in great catching form in the slips, looked out of sorts with the willow as well. He edged a lifter from the unpredictable Wahab Riaz to Iftikhar Ahmed at first slip. Alex Hales’ bad times continued as he constantly poked at the pace bowlers outside off stump. He tried to survive, but his innings ended on 12 from 55 balls as he played all around what was a straight ball from Yasir Shah.
James Vince’s torrid series continued as he also fell prey to Yasir, who was beginning to find his rhythm back. Vince was back in the hut for a three-ball duck, driving Yasir straight to Misbah-ul-Haq at cover. Joe Root once again looked comfortable out in the middle. He progressed to 39 without much trouble, and seemed set for a big score. He crossed 4000 runs during his innings. Yasir skidded one on to the pads, and was successful in trapping England’s most dangerous batsman leg before. Gary Ballance and Jonny Bairstow took England to stumps without further trouble.
The story of the day was however about Younis. He blasted 31 fours and four sixes during his 308-balls stay. What his innings, and his partnership with the tail did was it transformed what could have been a steady lead into a match-defining one. Younis was content rotating the strike as Sarfraz Ahmed scored a breezy 44 from 78 balls. But, once the lower order came in, he farmed the strike brilliantly in two significant partnerships with Wahab (37 runs) and Mohammad Amir (97 runs). It was in the company of Amir that Younis reached yet another double hundred.
Younis expectedly was severe on Moeen Ali. The off spinner was introduced in the last over before lunch, and Younis welcomed him by driving and sweeping him for fours. In the second session, Younis crossed the 150 mark by pulling Stuart Broad through square leg. Meanwhile, Cook dropped Wahab at slip to increase England’s frustration. Younis continued his attack on Moeen, blasting him for three sixes in the space of five overs, the last of which took him past his double hundred. Younis was eventually trapped lbw by James Anderson off a full ball, but by then he had possibly done irreparable damage to England’s cause.
--By A Cricket Analyst