Vol. 5 Num 780 Sun. August 06, 2006  

Bell belts Pakistan

Ian Bell's third hundred in as many Tests left England in a commanding position in the third Test against Pakistan at Headingley here Saturday.

At tea, on the second day, Pakistan were 66 for two in reply to England's first innings 515, a huge deficit of 449, after Bell, who'd made 119, had relegated Kevin Pietersen (135) to an unfamiliar supporting role in an interrupted stand worth 141.

In reply, Pakistan lost two wickets for two runs in 10 balls as they collapsed to 36 for two.

Younis Khan was 15 not out and Mohammad Yousuf, dropped on five, was unbeaten on 11.

Openers Salman Butt and Taufeeq Umar, playing his first match of the series, put on 34 - Pakistan's best first wicket stand in three Tests.

Matthew Hoggard, wicketless at Old Trafford then struck on his Yorkshire home ground when Umar (seven) edged behind as he pushed forward with recalled wicket-keeper Chris Read, in for the dropped Geraint Jones, taking a good diving catch to his left.

Butt (20) was then run out by Pietersen's direct hit from gully after Younis set-off for a reckless single.

And Pakistan were almost 42 for three when Yousuf edged fast bowler Stephen Harmison to third slip Paul Collingwood, who dropped a low chance.

Bell was the first England batsman since Allan Lamb against the West Indies in 1984 to score hundreds in three consecutive Tests in the same home series.

The 24-year-old Bell made 100 not out in the drawn first Test against Pakistan at Lord's and an unbeaten 106 in the innings and 120-run second Test win at Old Trafford, which put England 1-0 up in the four-match series.

He fell shortly before lunch when he was bowled off-stump, trying to steer leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, having faced 206 balls with 12 fours in a four-and-a-half hour innings.

England's total was boosted by a ninth-wicket stand of 56 in just 46 balls between Sajid Mahmood (a Test best 34) and Harmison (36).

Harmison, who hit two successive sixes off Shahid Nazir, went when he was caught off a top-edge sweep against Kaneria.

And six overs after lunch the innings was over when Mahmood was bowled by persevering paceman Umar Gul, having faced 45 balls with four fours.

Gul took five for 123 and all four of Pakistan's main bowlers conceded more than 100 runs each, seamer Mohammad Sami (two for 135) the most expensive.

Pakistan, as had been the case in the first two Tests, again struggled without injured quicks Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif and Navedul Hasan.

After Lord's, Bell expected to be dropped for Andrew Flintoff but the all-rounder's ongoing absence with an ankle injury gave the right-handed batsman a reprieve.

England resumed on 347 for six with the 26-year-old Pietersen, who'd retired hurt Friday after scoring 104, facing first ball after going off with cramp in his left forearm on Friday.

Pietersen, who hadn't reached fifty in his previous six Test innings, opened up with a flamboyant cover-drive off Shahid Nazir, who on Friday had him caught behind on two but not given out, caught off a no-ball on 29 and dropped on 104.

Warwickshire's Bell had a nervy moment on 80 when he had to dive to regain his ground after Pietersen's straight drive was deflected onto the stumps at the non-striker's end by Gul.

He later on-drove Sami for four to complete his hundred, his fifth Test century and fourth against Pakistan.

South Africa-born Pietersen exited when he lofted Sami to Nazir at long-off.

He faced 169 balls with two sixes and 20 fours.

England's Kevin Pietersen plays a magnificent straight-drive off Pakistan seamer Shahid Nazir on the second day of the third Test at Headingley in Leeds on Saturday. PHOTO: AFP