Alistair Cook did his hopes of retaining his England place the world of good with a much-needed 50 to ensure the third Test at the Oval against Pakistan was left finely poised on the third morning.
The Essex opener has been scratching for runs all series and much talk has revolved around whether another failure would result in him losing his place in the side ahead of the Ashes later this year.
However, he answered in the best possible way as he reached 76 without being dismissed at lunch to leave England 110 for two, a lead of 35.
Cook’s knock was particularly imperative as England lost captain Andrew Strauss in the three overs faced at the end of the evening session on day two.
Night watchman James Anderson kept Cook company for 40 minutes before being caught behind from Saeed Ajmal’s first delivery of the day, leaving Jonathan Trott, who is unbeaten on 15, to share a stand of 70 through to lunch.
Paul Collingwood, Eoin Morgan and first-innings hero Matt Prior are among the other England stars left to come in, as England look to build a solid lead ahead of Pakistan’s second innings.
The tourists also proved in Australia in their last series that they may struggle to hold their nerve when presented with a chasing a low fourth-innings total as they just made 180 at Headingley.
A few quick wickets after lunch will put Pakistan right back in control. They are 5/2 to win the third Test.