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England vs Pakistan, 1st Test, Day 3: Prior hits ton, England seven wickets away from win

England are only seven wickets away from a victory at Nottingham over the mercurial Pakistan who were denied a comeback courtesy a wonderful century from Matt Prior – his first since March, 2009.

Matt Prior's unbeaten 102 was the difference between England and Pakistan

Matt Prior's unbeaten 102 was the difference between England and Pakistan

Pakistan had gained an upper hand in the morning, just like yesterday, when a burst from Umar Gul put England on the back-foot. At a stage, the hosts were 98 for 6, but Prior along with Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann and Steven Finn for the last wicket not only rescued England but put in them in a winning position. Setting Pakistan a target of an improbable 435, England also claimed three of their wickets before the close of play to put the lid on any minute hopes of a run-chase.

Salman Butt was the first to go, cutting – in fact, top edging – a Broad delivery to Collingwood at third slip, followed by Azhar Ali and Umar Amin, both of whom were rapped in the pads plumb in front by Broad and Anderson. Pakistan nightwatchman Mohammed Aamer held the crease at stumps with opener Imran Farhat. The match is as good as over for Pakistan.

Earlier, Umar Gul took three wickets in four overs to revive Pakistan, but the efforst by their bowlers were not reciprocated in the field. Kamran Akmal had a good outing after a long time, taking two very good catches but dropping a simpler chance. It is clear that the puny man is putting in a lot of effort to stay focused and not squander chances.

Today, Kamran dismissed dangermen Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen through two wonderful catches – one sliding to claim a catch that was bobbled by Umar Akmal at second slip which flew over the first slip to his brother, and the other diving to his left to claim Pietersen with a stunner one-handed. But Kamran did miss a chance after all – that of Jonathan Trott which was much simpler one than the others. But, no issues, Pakistan did not rue that miss as Trott went on to be bowled by Gul not much later. Overall, the keeper had a great day, also inflicting a stumping at the latter part of England innings. And Pakistan might have had too, had it not been for the cool innings by Matt Prior.

To the credit of Pakistan, they ensured that wickets kept falling at regular intervals, and it was only Matt Prior who took the game away from them. His unbeaten 102 came off 136 deliveries, and the next highest score was one of his partner Graeme Swann’s at 28.

With two full days of this Test remaining, England have all the time in the world to bowl Pakistan out. The match is as good as over, and even a miracle for Pakistan may not be enough.

Yet the match was much closer than the final result might suggest. It was only Matt Prior who chose this day to be the difference between England and Pakistan.

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