Saud, Imam Score Half Centuries as Day 3 ends even:
The sun on Day 3 of the second Test match shone in its full swing in the absence of all the haze which made the start of the day’s play much brighter than the previous two days. Starting from where they were forced to end on Day 2, the English batters Harry Brook and Ben Stokes entered the ground with a dominating lead on the board. England left the ground yesterday with a 281 runs lead and 5 wickets in hand.
The play began around 10 minutes earlier and Abrar Ahmed came to bowl to the on-crease Skipper Ben Stokes. Mohammad Ali, one of the only two fast bowlers of the squad, was sent to the other end to attack with the ball in his hand. Adding to Pakistan’s worry, the Run rate which was already above 4 was brought further up on the back of boundaries which were cleared at least once for the next 6 consecutive overs. By the end of the 58th over, England were 256/5 and the scoring rate just a lick below 4.5.
Mohammad Nawaz, who was asked to replace Mohammad Ali earlier, bowled the 59th one and to Pakistan’s and the Multan crowd’s relief dismissed Ben Stokes who had just a few balls ago equalled the record of his Coach Brendon McCullum of hitting the most sixes in Tests. In a bid to supersede McCullum in the list, he struck the ball towards the leg side but was caught by Mohammad Ali standing at the deep.
Ollie Robinson came in next but trudged off the field, facing only 5 balls after Abrar Ahmed struck the timber behind him. Harry Brook stood, with his score which was recently converted into three figures, and was joined by Mark Wood. Nawaz and Abrar on the other hand kept on replacing each other with the ball with run rate still well above 4.
Zahid Mehmood replaced Nawaz and Babar was paid back for this decision immediately after Zahid hoodwinked Wood and the Skipper took a low catch standing at slips. England’s lineup was collapsing and the runs on the board were still not enough. In his next over, Zahid ended the party for England with a double-wicket over. The runs on the board read 275 and the target was 355. Pakistan were left with 270 overs to achieve this not-so-impossible target.
PAKISTAN’S 2ND INNINGS:
Imam ul Haq had earlier gone to the hospital for an MRI scan for discomfort in his right hamstring, Mohammad Rizwan was asked to open the innings in his place with the young man Abdullah Shafique. Both Abdullah Shafique and Pakistan’s makeshift opener, Mohammad Rizwan started playing aggressively, at least if one gauged by Pakistan’s standards. Robinson and Leach were given the responsibility of bowling by Stokes and owing to Pakistan’s rocketing start the scoring rate went up to more than four and a half by the end of 8 overs. A lost review and 12 overs later, Mark Wood was brought into the attack. With lunch only a few minutes away, Stokes was definitely looking for a breakthrough which he could not get. However, an enthusiastic appeal was made by the English team when Wood’s short ball hit Rizwan’s pad and Umpire Marais Erasmus responded to the call with a finger in the air. The Pakistani wicket keeper batter reviewed it immediately, which turned out to be a brilliant decision after UltraEdge revealed that the ball thudded into the bat first. The Lunch break started and what was an amazing session for Pakistan, ended. The batters went in with 64 runs on the scorecard and all timbers in hand. A solid and a much needed start for Pakistan.
The break ended and so did Pakistan’s idyll. Anderson got Rizwan with an absolute Jaffa just after Lunch. Rizwan in denial remained standing on the pitch to fathom what had just happened. It felt the whole World had stopped rotating to see the brilliant delivery by Anderson which crashed into the off-stump mysteriously. Rizwan walked off the field, still shell-shocked.
Pakistani skipper, Babar Azam, came in next and Stokes almost immediately recruited Ollie Robinson in Wood’s place, who in his second over after returning delivered an unbelievable delivery which swung late but a long distance and collided with the off stump. Robinson claimed Babar’s important wicket for the second time in the same match. Babar walked back slowly, clearly in shock.
This was a big big wicket for the English and their faces showed. Saud Shakeel walked towards the field and Pakistan was on their way to fall like a house of cards but the youngsters who were standing on the crease stuck to their guns to rescue their side. Seamers were being given the ball one after another, the pitch had more cracks than ever. Mark Wood, Ollie Robinson and James Anderson brought the run rate under control and a clear domination over Pakistan’s wet behind the ears batters on the crease. 23 overs went by and Pakistan had only amassed 70 runs from the 355 runs target, with 2 big wickets already out of their hands.
After the 25th over, Ben Stokes decided to bring in Spin and Jack Leach came with Pakistan’s RR at 2.96. Anderson bowled from the other end to maintain the seam-spin combination but Pakistan batters were quiescent, still trying to recover from losing their main wickets. The period of dormancy was ended with Abdullah Shafique’s boundary to Jack Leach but was punished by the newly brought back in Mark Wood in his next over for the sacrilege. Another peach of a delivery by the English pacer which showed movement and struck right into the off stump to dismiss Abdullah. One more of Pakistan’s batters walked back to the pavilion, tension among the crowd prevailed. Treading in came Imam ul Haq, finally, and announced his arrival with a boundary to Wood.
Joe Root came in the 32nd in place of Wood while Leach bowled from the other side. With a few boundaries from both batters, Pakistan crossed 100 after the 35th over finished. Pacers were resting as Will Jacks was brought in next but Imam ul Haq made sure boundaries were being added to the score from time to time as Pakistan was making its way back to the game. A breakthrough was needed here which did not come but pacers to the attack did. Wood was handed the ball and Pakistan batters kept on playing everso calmly knowing that they have 2 more days to bat, if they keep the wickets safely in their hands.
The time for the tea break came with Pakistan having 136/2 on the scoreboard which depicted the recovery both batters made.
The final session of the day began and Root and Leach bowled the first few overs. Run rate stood at 3 while boundaries made occasional appearances to maintain it. Following a slow flow of runs and Imam’s half century, Pakistan team ended the 56th over with 178 runs in the bag which marked that they were halfway through achieving this target.
For only the 7th time this innings, Jimmy Anderson came into bowl with Jack Leach delivering from the other end. Leach broke the long-standing partnership and sent Imam ul Haq home just a ball after his counterpart Saud Shakeel reached his 50. Imam was crestfallen and so was the Multan crowd, a much needed and long awaited breakthrough rejuvenated the English.
In came Faheem Ashraf, the team’s fast bowling all-rounder. The play went on for 3 more overs after the Umpires called it a day.
The score will remain 198/4 overnight with Saud Shakeel and Faheem Ashraf, the batters who will return tomorrow. A good day for both teams who got turns in dominating the other. Pakistan still 156 runs behind with 6 wickets in hand. Tomorrow will most probably be the deciding day not only for this match but for the series overall as well.