8/1/10

Matt Prior's unbeaten century left England well placed for victory inside four days in the first Test against Pakistan at Trent Bridge on Saturday.


Pakistan, at stumps on the third day, had collapsed to 15 for three - still needing a further 420 runs for what would be a new world record fourth innings victory total of 435.

The most any side has ever made in the fourth innings to win a Test is the 418 for seven scored by the West Indies against Australia in Antigua in 2003.

Pakistan's equivalent record is the 315 for nine they scored against Australia at Karachi in 1994.

Prior's 102 not out was the major contribution to an England second innings total of 262 for nine declared, made after he came in at 72 for five.

Stuart Broad, on his Nottinghamshire home ground, then had Pakistan captain Salman Butt, flashing outside off-stump, well caught by Paul Collingwood at third slip.

Two balls later, Broad had Azhar Ali lbw for nought and by stumps had taken two wickets for 14 runs in three overs.

Umar Amin was then lbw for one to James Anderson as Pakistan suffered their latest top-order collapse, losing three wickets for one run in seven balls.

Imran Farhat was six not out and nightwatchman Mohammad Aamer unbeaten on nought at the close.

"The way Jimmy and Broady took those three wickets put us in a very strong position," Prior told reporters.

Earlier, the Sussex wicketkeeper was some distance from a century, on 63, when last man Steven Finn came to the crease.

But Middlesex quick Finn showed a fine defensive technique and good temperament to hold an end up for 50 minutes on his way to nine not out in an unbroken tenth-wicket stand of 49.

"I had a huge amount of confidence in him," Prior said of Finn. "We just played a county match against each other and I had to watch him get a 35-ball nought not out which was thoroughly annoying.

"I just said 'same again please mate' and he did a fantastic job."

Prior hoisted leg-spinner Danish Kaneria for two sixes in three balls but also took a single off the first ball of an over seven times with Finn at the other end.

But Prior's faith in Finn was rewarded when he late cut-off spinner Shoaib Malik for three to complete a third hundred in his 32nd Test. It was his first at this level since he made 131 not out against the West Indies in Trinidad in March last year.

However, Prior was only seven shy of three figures in England's last Test, against Bangladesh at Old Trafford in June.

"I'm not a huge stats watcher," Prior said. "I got 93 in the last Test I played, so it doesn't feel that long ago I contributed to the team and that's the important thing."

Prior, who has lost his place in England's one-day side to fellow South Africa born gloveman Craig Kieswetter, added: "International cricket is about pressure. I've not played a day for England not being under pressure, so I'm used to it, I enjoy it and I thrive on it.

"It probably brings out the best in me."

England captain Andrew Strauss declared with Prior having faced 136 balls with two sixes and seven fours in over three hours at the crease.

Earlier Umar Gul ensured Pakistan avoided the follow-on with a Test-best 65 not out, and then took three wickets for seven runs in 21 balls.

The only downside to an otherwise fine day for England was Kevin Pietersen's dismissal for 22 - the 21st Test innings in a row where the star batsman had failed to score a century.

Pietersen got an inside edge off seamer Gul and wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal held a superb one-handed diving catch.

Before lunch, England lost Strauss for a third ball nought.

He edged to second slip where Umar Akmal fumbled the chance and then, flailing away, knocked the ball up, with Umar's brother Kamran reacting well to complete the catch.