Collapses hold key to Pakistan-England series

Both sides head into the fourth and final Test between England and Pakistan here at Lord’s confident they can make the other collapse.

The hosts are 2-1 up, primarily after bowling Pakistan out for record low scores against England of 80 and 72 in 354 run and nine-wicket wins at Trent Bridge and Edgbaston respectively.

But, in a series most played under cloudy skies, Pakistan exposed the frailty within England’s batting at The Oval last week.

England lost six wickets for 58 ruins in the first innings and then seven for 29, in generally batting friendly conditions, second time around as Pakistan won by four wickets to give the tourists’ hope of squaring the series when the fourth Test starts at Lord’s on Thursday.

But England fast bowler Steven Finn, who will be playing on his Middlesex home ground, said: “We’ve bowled Pakistan out for 72 and 80 so far, so there’s a batting collapse waiting to happen.

“They have had two innings where they have played well and put partnerships together – but at no stage have they got away from us.

“Their top score is just over 300.”

But there was no denying how Pakistan’s batting was strengthened by the return of former captain Mohammad Yousuf, whose first innings fifty was a minor gem, at The Oval.

Not only did he play well himself, he seemed to have a calming influence on those around him, notably Azhar Ali, who made an impressive unbeaten 92 in the first innings at The Oval, even if a bullish Finn insisted: “Them having Yousuf in the team doesn’t make them a different team at all.”

England’s settled top order though has misfired throughout the season with Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook and captain Andrew Strauss himself all averaging under 30 in three Tests against the Pakistanis.

Yousuf’s recall effectively saw Umar Amin dropped and the young batsman is unlikely to feature at Lord’s. But, from a Pakistani point of view, his analysis of the damage done to England’s top-order by the A force of Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Aamer and spinner Saeed Ajmal, made a lot of sense.

“England were 2-0 up going to the Oval – but suddenly after the way they were beaten there, they must be on the back foot,” Amin said.

“You’re always in the game against them – even if they get a partnership going, you never give up.

“You’re never out of it – because they can collapse at any time.

“We just want a repeat of the Oval. We proved there we are a better side.”

Meanwhile the 21-year-old Finn was dismissive of remarks made by Australia all-rounder Shane Watson that he might struggle ‘Down Under’ during the forthcoming Ashes series. “As far as what Shane Watson has said, I’m not concerning myself at all about it,” he said.

“I don’t care who’s talking about me, I’m not fazed by it. I’m just going to concentrate on the immediate future, which is this Test match.”

England v Pakistan teams

Probable teams and officials for the fourth and final Test between England and Pakistan at Lord’s here on Thursday:

<b>Pakistan (probable): </b> Imran Farhat, Yasir Hameed, Salman Butt (capt), Mohammad Yousuf, Azhar Ali, Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal (wkt), Mohammad Aamer, Wahab Riaz, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Asif

<b>England (from): </b> Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior (wkt), Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Steven Finn, Tim Bresnan

Umpires: Billy Bowden (NZL) and Tony Hill (NZL)

TV umpire: Steve Davis (AUS)

Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI)