Lunch Pakistan 202 and 291 for 7 (Salman 0*, Abrar 0*) need another 64 runs to beat England 281 and 275

Saud Shakeel
and Mohammad Nawaz produced a fire-and-ice stand of 80 in 21.5 overs to give Pakistan hope of a famous victory on a tense fourth morning in Multan, only for the extra pace of Mark Wood to blast both men out with lunch looming, and push England back on track to wrap up the series with a Test to spare.

Needing 355 to level the series, Pakistan’s sixth-wicket pair overcame the early loss of Faheem Ashraf to leave England sweating on their options as the new ball came and went. But Wood, with a typically irrepressible burst, pounded in on an otherwise unresponsive deck, and prised out both – Nawaz for 45 and Shakeel for 94 – both to gloved short balls down the leg side.

Ollie Pope was the man to scoop up both offerings, although debate will rage about the second – and most crucial – of Wood’s incisions. With a brilliantly gutsy century looming, Shakeel swung into his pull and under-edged his stroke, for Pope to made good ground and scoop the ball inches from the turf. Subsequent replays suggested, however, the ball may have made contact with the ground as his gloves closed around the chance, but guided by Aleem Dar’s on-field soft signal of out, Joel Wilson the third umpire deemed there was not enough evidence to overturn.

The upshot was that Pakistan went to the break on 291 for 7, needing 64 more runs for victory, but with only their tail to guide them over the line. Abrar Ahmed survived a hopeful review for lbw as he ducked into a low-bouncing short ball from Wood’s final ball of the session, but he may need to surpass even his 11-wicket heroics if he’s to pull this one round for his team.

With victory or bust beckoning for both teams, Pakistan had resumed on their overnight 198 for 4 – still a taxing but obtainable 157 away. Ben Stokes opted for a seam and spin attack from the outset, with James Anderson partnered by the offspin of Joe Root, reasoning that the ball turning away from the left-handers was the better bet to challenge the outside edge.

Sure enough, that ploy paid swift dividends, as Ashraf, on 10, pushed forward at Root’s habitual round-the-wicket line, and Zak Crawley pouched a sharp chance at slip as the ball straightened and kissed the shoulder of the bat. It was Root’s 50th Test wicket – making him only the third player in history to do the 10,000 runs / 50 wickets double – and at 210 for 5, England were inching into the ascendancy.

Shakeel, however, was unruffled as he steeled himself purely for endurance, but Nawaz – pushed up to No. 7 ahead of Agha Salman – took a more proactive approach to his innings. A fierce sweep in front of square off Root persuaded Stokes to turn back to his premier spinner, Jack Leach, who so nearly bowled Shakeel round his legs with a sharp turner from outside off that flew away for another boundary, before Nawaz saw off the old ball with a superb cover drive in Leach’s next over.

Wood entered the attack for a sharp four-over burst – aided by a harder replacement ball – but when the actual new ball became available with 109 runs still needed, it was Ollie Robinson and Root to whom Stokes initially turned. Nawaz duly took the attack to Root with a brace of proactive boundaries, but Robinson – with his round-the-wicket angle – proved a greater threat, frequently beating his flirty drives outside off, until a rifled drive through the covers prompted the recall of Anderson to the attack.

Anderson duly found the edge, but only down through the cordon, and away for another boundary, whereupon Shakeel too decided that taking down the spinners was the best ploy with the threat at the other end mounting. He drilled Leach through the covers for his most forceful stroke of the morning, then top-edged a sweep in the same over that looped away to safety and take him into the 90s.

Stokes responded by turning back to Wood, whose round-the-wicket angle leaked another precious boundary as Nawaz flicked a short ball off his hips. But that would be the last moment of true progress in the session for Pakistan. Two balls later, Nawaz flicked to Pope, and England’s route to victory reopened.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket


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