Late England surge leaves Test match in the balance

first_img(ESPNCRICINFO) – Yasir Shah collected four wickets as Pakistan secured a healthy first-innings lead but England’s five-pronged seam attack chipped away to keep them in contention during the opening match of what could turn out to be a classic three-Test series.Late on an intriguing third day, it felt as though there were multiple scenarios yet to be played out, but it would take much more than England had shown so far to completely flip the script. By the close, the hosts had put themselves in a position to do just that, provided they can take early wickets on the fourth day and then produce an improved batting performance in their second innings.England had resumed in peril at 92 for 4 and required either Ollie Pope or Jos Buttler or both to produce big innings with the deficit 184 runs, following Shan Masood’s outstanding 156, built over the first two days.Instead, Pakistan seamers Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Abbas kept the pressure on the batsmen with a miserly first hour in which England managed 19 runs. Abbas was particularly exacting, conceding just one run from his initial seven overs.Pope, who had resumed on 46, passed fifty during that time but he and Buttler, who began the day on 15, just couldn’t get into a flow.It was teenage firebrand Naseem Shah who caused the batsmen real bother, however, eliciting loose shots from both before he had Pope out to an excellent ball, that lifted late off a full length, found the splice and went straight to Shadab Khan at gully for 62.Three balls later, Naseem cracked Chris Woakes on the side of his helmet with bouncer. Concussion tests passed, Woakes joined Buttler in guiding England to lunch otherwise unscathed, despite the introduction of Yasir, who bowled two overs before the break. In all, England had added 62 runs for the session and trailed by 167.Yasir, who had Joe Root caught behind on the second evening, struck with his second ball after lunch, bowling Buttler between bat and pad as he played forward to a ball he expected to turn more than it did and which crashed into the top of off stump. Buttler, having come in under pressure to score runs, added just 23 for the day before he found himself out to a very good delivery.Yasir then removed Dom Bess with turn and bounce and an excellent slips-catch by Asad Shafiq, who leapt high to his right to pull down the ball which looped off the shoulder of the bat and, crucially, held on as he hit the ground, horizontal and at full stretch.Woakes had dug in for 19 runs off 48 balls but he also fell to Yasir, whose quicker ball clattered into middle stump.For a third day in a row, England were struggling after lunch but being eight wickets down brought Stuart Broad to the crease and there was a sense of anticipation following his crucial half-century in the third Test against West Indies a fortnight ago.Three consecutive boundaries followed off Afridi but by the time Khan had Jofra Archer caught behind off the glove for 16, Broad had quietened down. He had another go with 6-4-2 in succession off Yasir to move to 29 but that’s where he stayed, unbeaten, when James Anderson fell lbw to Khan attempting a reverse sweep and England were all out for 219, trailing by 107.When Broad removed Masood for an 11-ball duck, Pakistan were 8 for 1 and they could have been two down at tea but for Ben Stokes putting down Abid Ali off the bowling of Anderson.It took the introduction of Bess to make further inroads after the interval. Bess struck with his sixth ball to remove Abid, hoicking in ungainly fashion to deep square leg, and so began an enthralling period where the plot deviated one way then another.Like Bess, Woakes came in with immediate effect, removing the dangerous Babar Azam – who scored 69 in the first innings – for just 5, caught by Stokes holding on this time at second slip. Woakes then trapped Azhar Ali lbw for 18 to put Pakistan at 63 for 4 with the lead 171 and keep England in the fight.Asad Shafiq and Mohammad Rizwan pushed Pakistan’s advantage beyond the 200-mark with a partnership that looked set to frustrate the hosts but which ended on 38 with a superb run-out by Dom Sibley, descending on the ball from point and firing it in off-balance to take out the stumps with Shafiq nowhere near making his ground.Stokes, who did not bowl in the first innings due a quad injury suffered in the West Indies series, came into the attack late in the day and his ability to make things happen could not be denied.Stokes had Rizwan out lbw and Afridi, gloving a bouncer to gully, with Broad accounting for Khan via the DRS in-between after his appeal for lbw was initially turned down by on-field umpire Richard Illingworth but was shown to be hitting leg stump.That left Yasir set to be the protagonist again, seeking quick runs to push the lead up on the fourth morning as the storyline came full circle.last_img

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