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Inzamam, Afridi put Pakistan in driving seat


If England were delighted to welcome back their captain Michael Vaughan, Pakistan must have been positively over the moon at Shahid Afridi's return to the side. With a blistering unbeaten assault of 67, Afridi and his captain Inzamam-ul-Haq have put their side in a commanding position at the close of play on the first day, according to webside cricinfo.
With the dismissal of Mohammad Yousuf for a calm and patient 78, ending a resolute 128-run partnership with his captain, Afridi danced to the crease without a care in the world, and treated all of the English bowlers with disdain and contempt; he scored 12 runs in his first four balls, and raced uninhibitedly to fifty from 46 balls. His captain, meanwhile, obdurately plodded, cut and drove his way to yet another fifty himself - his 42nd for Pakistan, and his eighth against England. It hadn't gone Pakistan's way earlier in the day, though, by any means. Choosing to bat after winning the toss, on a pitch that was likened to a strip of baked mud, England - despite their initial waywardness - snaffled three quick wickets.
Steve Harmison tempted Salman Butt, who threatened to continue his excellent form, into edging a full delivery - and this was soon followed up by Flintoff. Returning for a new spell, his first ball was chipped limply and wastefully by Younis Khan to Kevin Pietersen. By now, Pakistan's exuberant strokeplay had been reduced to careful defence, as they pottered along at a little over three runs per over. Shoaib Malik, who had played solidly throughout the morning, mis-drove Hoggard; on any other day, the ball would have sped to the boundary. But Flintoff, at short cover, dived full-length with remarkable agility and reactions, to snatch the ball one-handed. Malik trudged off, with a look of part-anger and part-incredulity - and England went to lunch a happy bunch.
Pakistan's fragility wasn't to rear its ugly head, though, as England went wicketless in the afternoon session. Both Inzamam and Yousuf calmly and steadily re-built the innings; Yousuf was in particularly elegant touch, caressing nine boundaries and nudging singles intelligently.