Pakistan 273 and 100 for 2 (Azhar 29*, Azam 4*) trail England 583 for 8 dec by 210 runs
England’s victory push and James Anderson‘s quest to reach 600 Test wickets were frustrated by rain, bad light, and a dogged rearguard effort by Pakistan’s top order on the fourth day of the third and final Test.
After Abid Ali and Shan Masood had successfully negotiated 18 overs in the morning session, a heavy downpour and a significant amount of standing water held play up until 3.45pm.
Stuart Broad struck soon after, trapping Masood lbw as he offered no shot to a nip-backer, before Anderson pinned Abid in front for his 599th scalp as the ball began to reverse. But the light deteriorated soon after, and after four overs of spin, the umpires decided to take the players off soon after 6.30pm.
Even with much of the focus on Anderson’s push to reach his landmark, the first question of the morning revolved around who would open the batting for Pakistan. Azhar Ali, who had promoted himself to open in the follow-on after his masterful, unbeaten hundred from No. 3 in Pakistan’s first innings, was able to push himself back down to first drop thanks to Law 25.2, and duly did so.
That meant Abid and Masood were tasking with seeing off the new ball. Masood was handed an early life as he pushed outside his off stump against an Anderson outswinger, his edge bursting through Jos Buttler in the fifth over of the innings. That meant England had dropped four chances off Anderson in the space of 37 balls across two innings; this was the first time he had allowed himself as much as a wry smile.
Both openers were watchful, but were beaten regularly as Anderson and Broad probed with tight lines and lengths. There was no let-up from England when Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer replaced them, but a jet-black cloud gave Pakistan some respite soon before 12.30pm, as rain – first light, then biblical – came down.
After a lengthy mopping-up operation, the umpires decided that play would resume after an early tea interval, with 52 overs due to be bowled in a mammoth evening session. Abid and Masood edged towards a half-century stand, compiling the highest opening partnership by a touring team this summer in the process, but ended up falling a solitary run short.
Masood decided against offering a shot to Broad’s in-dipper on a length, which Michael Gough adjudged to be hitting the top of off stump. Masood reviewed, but Hawk-Eye upheld the decision, with the ball shown to be trimming the bails.
That brought in Azhar, whose first task was to get out the way of a short, sharp burst from Archer, who again regularly hit the 90mph/145kph mark. Joe Root then asked Broad to slip back into the role he once filled regularly as the enforcer, banging the ball in halfway down. It seems like an unusual move, until the ball began to show signs of reverse-swing towards the end of his spell.
That allowed Anderson to pose some real threat on his return, nipping one past Azhar’s outside edge with the first ball of his spell. He moved to 599 when he pinned Abid in front, unable to jam the bat down on a fullish inswinger that he tried to work into the leg side. Again, Pakistan reviewed; again, Hawk-Eye showed the ball was clipping the stumps, upholding the on-field decision.
Anderson had all of seven balls to reach the 600 mark, as the umpires decided that the light was too poor for seamers to continue, leaving Dom Bess to operate in tandem with Root. But after four overs of dogged defence, the players were brought off for the light, and drizzle soon after meant stumps were called at 6.45pm.
The overnight forecast suggests that a delayed start is inevitable on the final day, with England eight wickets away from completing a 2-0 series win and Pakistan clinging on for a draw – with World Test Championship points, as well as just pride.