Faisalabad, November 20:

Shahid Afridi smashed a blistering half-century to keep alive Pakistan’s hopes of posting a big total in the second Test against England here on Sunday.

The aggressive middle-order batsman (67 not out) reached his half-century off just 46 balls with three sixes and four boundaries as Pakistan scored 300-4 in their first innings at stumps on the opening day. He has so far struck four sixes and five fours in his 62-ball knock for his seventh Test half-century, much to the delight of a holiday crowd.

Pakistan skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq also played a big role in propping up the innings after England had threatened twice to restrict his team after he had elected to bat on a flat track.

Inzamam, who scored a solid 80 not out for his third successive half-century, put on 128 for the fourth wicket with Mohammad Yousuf (78) and 99 for the unfinished fifth with Afridi.

Pakistan were struggling at 73-3 before Inzamam and Yousuf came to their team’s rescue with their responsible knocks.

England then found an unlikely wickettaker in Ian Bell, who broke the fourth-wicket stand when he held a low return catch on his follow-through to account for Yousuf for his maiden Test victim in 10 matches.

Yousuf hit two sixes off left-arm spinner Ashley Giles and eight fours in his 23rd half-century in 61 Test matches.

Yousuf, who had played 59 Tests as Yousuf Youhana before he converted to Islam, looked set for a big innings before falling to a spectacular catch in the fourth over the tea-break.

Afridi walked in and promptly put Bell in his place, smashing three successive fours to force skipper Michael Vaughan to replace the bowler with Harmison.

But there was no stopping Afridi, who hoisted Harmison for a six in the stands. He then severely punished off-spinner Shaun Udal as he smashed two huge sixes in one over, the first one clearing the stadium.

Afridi offered a chance on 34 when Vaughan dropped him in the covers off paceman Matthew Hoggard.

Pakistan nearly squandered the advantage of winning the toss on a good batting pitch when Shoaib Malik (27), Salman Butt (26) and Younis Khan (seven) departed in the space of 20 runs.

Vaughan, returning to lead the side after missing the first Test at Multan due to a knee injury, kept ringing in bowling changes to keep pressure on the Pakistani batsmen. His fast bowlers did not let him down in the extended two-and-a-half-hour morning session as Andrew Flintoff, Harmison and Hoggard bagged one wicket apiece.

England went wicketless in the afternoon session as Yousuf and Inzamam applied themselves well to steady the innings after early losses. Both the batsmen played attacking cricket, never allowing their rivals to dominate them. There was no hint of the mini collapse in the morning session when Butt and Malik gave their team a 53-run start.