Play got underway in excellent fashion for the English when Asad Shafiq prodded tentatively to an enticing in-nipper from James Anderson which located the edge of the bat and then, inevitably, into the safe hands of Joe Root.
Then, as per usual, the gloomy English weather chewed of a customary hour of play and put a spanner in the works of England’s rampage. Luckily, the halt was only short lived and the players were able to get back to business.
After the rain delay, in came the quirky Fawad Alam and his crab resemblant batting stance and he scuttled away to a grittily played 21 as he briefly aided his skipper Azhar Ali who was just beginning to settle himself in at the crease.
In amidst this partnership, Jofra Archer hurled down a hostile spell of fast bowling at its absolute pinnacle as he consistently topped 90 mph and bowled with real pace and aggression. Fawad Alam and Azhar Ali did exceptionally well to tame the burning fire of Archer.
However, Alam fell to an absolute ripper by Dom Bess: it fizzed and bounced with intensity and it turned just enough to take the edge of the bat. It was the model ball that any off spinner would wish for.
It was also a very sharp take from Jos Buttler considering his abysmal keeping form this series and it was clear that some of the confidence taken from his batting success had transferred over to his keeping.
At the other end, Azhar Ali put aside his previous lean scores and battled with passion to give Pakistan a chance but he needed a reliable partner who would join him on this quest.
Enter Muhammad Rizwan: Pakistan has found a priceless gem in Rizwan as he has really impressed with his efficient wicket keeping technique when standing up to Mohammad Abbas and his doughty batting style.
He certainly showed his doughtiness in this innings as Rizwan toiled tirelessly alongside his captain Azhar Ali. They blunted the potency of England’s 4 pronged pace attack effectively and soon Ali made a captain’s hundred and Rizwan made his 50. Pakistan began to hope…
Just as things were beginning to look rosy for the Pakistanis, disaster struck. Muhammad Rizwan got out in one of the most frustrating ways known to mankind: strangled down the leg side.
That dismissal brought an end to a valiant knock and it must have put an end to the hopes of even the most optimistic of Pakistan fans as after Rizwan, only tailenders remain who you would expect to be cleaned up by the English in a jiffy.
Yasir Shah hung around for a short while until he too fell for a useful 20. The only constant was the presence of Azhar Ali as he remained defiant despite the demise of all around him. He also littered the scoreboard with frequent boundaries which kept the run rate ticking.
Shaheen Shah Afridi came and went for an insignificant 3 and when Mohammed Abbas came out, that was when the pandemonium began: James Anderson was dropped 3 times in the space of 2 overs and Anderson was forced to delay his march to 600 test victims. Imagine how frustrated Anderson must have been!
To avoid further embarrassment, Stuart Broad brilliantly ran out Abbas (albeit right after dropping a sitter) but Azhar Ali continued unleashing the carnage as he destroyed England’s bowlers with delightful boundaries.
Anderson finally got his 598th wicket as Shah edged to Sibley and Pakistan finished on a modest 273 while Azhar Ali ended on an outstanding 141 but that total could not stop Joe Root from enforcing the follow on.
Due to bad light, stumps was called but the battle will rage on tomorrow and Anderson will be looking to make history tomorrow by claiming his 600th test wicket, the first pace bowler to do so (the english weather may have other ideas)…