Alistair Cook continued his good form with a blistering half-century to lead England fightback in the third Test against Pakistan at Edgbaston on Friday, spicing the match in an exciting balance and for a fitting finale.
Cook’s 64 not out and Alex Hales 50 not out ensured England wiped off Pakistan’s 103-run lead by close on day three and were 120-0, leading by 17 with two days left to fight for a result.
Pakistan made 400 in their first innings but could not gain a bigger lead than 103.
The Edgbaston pitch played as predicted and slowed down considerably after England were bowled out for 297 on day one. There was no assistance for bowlers, no seam or spin for a four-pronged Pakistan attack.
There was only one moment when Pakistan looked like getting a wicket when leg-spinner Yasir Shah reviewed for a leg-before when Hales was on 39 but it was pitched outside leg and umpire Joe Wilson’s not out decision remained intact.
Cook has so far hit seven fours and looked set for his only second hundred at this ground, having hit 294 against India five years ago.
Pakistan need to restrict England or hope they contain their rivals for a draw.
Pakistan could have built more lead had they not gone in the shell, obviously scared of the fact that they could collapse and surrender the initiative of day two after resuming at 257-3. They were indebted to dour half-century from skipper Misbah-ul-Haq and equally fighting 46 not out by Sarfraz Ahmed.
Overnight batsman Younis Khan started off well but was dismissed in another peculiar way, jumping to a slanting Chris Woakes delivery only to edge behind the stump for Jonny Bairstow to take a regulation catch.
Pakistan had hoped Misbah and Asad Shafiq will swell the lead but they managed to add just 22 runs for the fifth wicket — none from Shafiq’s bat as he was extra cautious and couldn’t score a single run off the 18 balls he faced. His lack of imagination allowed Stuart Broad to produce a sharp incoming delivery which beat Shafiq’s forward push and hit the castle.
Misbah then found an able ally in Sarfraz as together they added 62 for the sixth wicket, brining Pakistan with 39 runs off England’s first innings total of 297.
Misbah completed his half-century — his third score of over 50 in the series — with an impressive cover drive off Steven Finn, his sixth boundary.
Unfortunately for the second time in the series Misbah was dismissed in a very casual style, prodding a loose defensive push off James Anderson onto his stumps. His 56 came off 107 balls and helped Pakistan get the first target – crossing England’s total. When Misbah left Pakistan already had a lead of 61.
England were depleted in their attack when on 368-8 Anderson was suspended from bowling after getting a third warning for running onto the danger area. Although it looked a bit harsh but third umpire Kumar Dharmasena disclosed on-field umpires were telling the England spearhead of the offense.
Pakistan lost Yasir Shah, Sohail Khan and Mohammad Amir within 19 runs but it was the last wicket stand that further frustrated the home team. Cook dropped England’s third catch of the innings when he let off Rahat Ali off a luckless Steven Finn.
In the end it was Broad who wrapped up the innings with Joe Root holding onto a straightforward catch at second slip — throwing the ball in disgust, having dropped centurion Azhar Ali on Thursday.
Anderson (3-76), Broad (3-83) and Woakes (3-79) shared the spoils while Finn remained wicket-less in the three innings of the series.