Excellent Azhar battles in vain as England turn the screw

By Dom Farrell 24 August 2020 3
Excellent Azhar battles in vain as England turn the screw

A defiant century from Pakistan captain Azhar Ali held up England but late breakthroughs ensured Joe Root's men were able to enforce the follow-on and close in on a series-clinching victory in the third Test.

Azhar remained unbeaten on 141 when the tourists were bowled out for 273, still 310 behind.

Bad light delayed Pakistan's second innings until the fourth morning.

Mohammad Rizwan added 138 for the sixth wicket alongside his skipper, using up almost 40 overs before being strangled down the leg side by Chris Woakes for 53, leaving Stuart Broad (2-40) to get amongst the tail and James Anderson (5-56) to take his 29th five-wicket haul in Tests.

Anderson, who is now just two away from the historic landmark of 600 Test wickets, had Asad Shafiq (5) caught at slip by Root during a rain-affected morning session, although an lbw appeal from Broad and a claim for caught behind from Jofra Archer – both against Azhar – saw England burn through their reviews in quick time.

Fawad Alam joined Azhar in helping to repel a ferocious Archer spell before falling for 21 when off-spinner Dom Bess extracted turn and bounce and Jos Buttler took the catch off the shoulder of the bat.

England's gloveman was similarly sharp when Rizwan perished in unfortunate fashion, while his acrobatic leap to his right to remove Shaheen Afridi arguably topped anything the first-innings centurion accomplished with the bat over the first two days.

That was Broad's second success with the second new ball, although Anderson's landmark bid was undermined when Rory Burns and Zak Crawley each shelled slip chances off his bowling in the 87th over.

The veteran's mood was hardly improved when Broad dropped a dolly at mid-on offered by Azhar before promptly throwing down the stumps and running out Mohammad Abbas for one.

Anderson's scowl had barely lifted when Dom Sibley held on in the cordon to dismiss Naseem Shah for a duck, putting the Pakistan top order back in his unerring sights.

Azhar breaks 6,000 barrier

Although the landmark on everyone's mind was Anderson closing in on his sextuple century of Test scalps, Pakistan captain Azhar moved beyond 6,000 runs in the longest format as he fought an almost lone hand against the seemingly inevitable.

After a 17th Test ton, the 35-year-old sits as Pakistan's fifth highest runs scorer of all time in the longest format.

Buttler back on song with bat and gloves

Following his game-changing knock as England won the opening Test and Old Trafford and a career-best 152 in the first innings here, Buttler took his renewed form behind the stumps.

The England wicketkeeper's glovework came in for criticism in Manchester but smoother footwork was on display and his catches to remove Fawad and Rizwan were both top class. The flying one-handed grab to account for Shaheen Afridi was absolutely sensational.

Mixed bag from Bess

England are likely to welcome back star all-rounder Ben Stokes for their next Test assignment. A middle order falling nicely into place and packed stocks of seam options jockeying for position means Bess (1-68) could find himself squeezed out of the side.

Under-bowled throughout the English summer, the argument for the off-spinner adding variety to the attack is undermined if he mixes threatening deliveries with long-hops to the extent he did on Sunday.

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