MANCHESTER, England (AP) — England pegged back Pakistan from a commanding position in the first test at Old Trafford on Friday and set up a thrilling finish.
Pakistan leveraged an imposing first-innings lead of 107 when it bowled out England for 219 on the third afternoon, but lost regular wickets of its own as it failed to bat the home side out of the game.
At stumps, Pakistan was 244 ahead on 137-8, still in a strong position but vulnerable to a fourth-innings chase. That was largely down to in-form seamers Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad, who shared four cheap wickets, but there was also a vital double strike from Ben Stokes.
Not deemed fit enough to play a full role with the ball due to a nagging quad injury, the allrounder stepped up late in the day to add the sheen to a strong fightback.
“I had no idea whether he was able to bowl or ready to bowl, but I’m not overly surprised that he could do what he did. That’s Ben Stokes, we know he’s capable of miracles,” Woakes said.
“He’s got a bit of a golden arm, he always has had the knack of picking up wickets. When you are in a bit of a dogfight, he’s the sort of player you want in your team. He always puts his hand up and gives 110%.”
England began the day on 92-4, with Ollie Pope and Jos Buttler looking to reprise the rescue job they started the previous evening.
Pope quickly turned his 46 not out into a a half-century but the first hour was little more than a trial for the batsmen. A paltry nine runs came off the bat in that time — outscored by 10 extras in the same period — as the three-pronged pace attack of Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Abbas and Naseem Shah worked over England.
Naseem saw off Pope for 62, with a length ball which kicked and flew to gully. Remarkably, that was the solitary success of the morning, Buttler and Woakes steering the score to 159-5 as scoring chances belatedly opened.
Buttler, still burdened by three missed chances behind the stumps, scrapped hard for his 38 but fell to his second ball after lunch. Yasir Shah was his downfall, sneaking one between bat and pad to clip the top of off.
Yasir made short work of Dom Bess, ousting him with turn and bounce before taking his fourth of the innings when Woakes heaved towards leg and hit fresh air.
England was in trouble at 170-8 but had Broad to thank for two tail-end stands which added 49 to the total before Shadab Khan intervened on both. Broad finished unbeaten on 29, with three boundaries in a row off Shaheen and a slog-swept six off Yasir under his belt.
There were nine overs before tea for England to strike back and Broad did so almost instantly, Shan Masood strangled down leg for a duck for a deflating follow-up to his epic 156. Buttler, who let him off twice in the first innings, was the most relieved man on the park when the ball settled cleanly in his gloves.
James Anderson created a second chance when Abid Ali edged an away-swinger but Stokes went across Joe Root and fumbled. It was not a costly miss, with the opener reaching 20 before hacking Bess to deep midwicket.
Woakes held the catch safely but had an even greater job to do with the ball. He was the fifth bowler used but made a major impact, rousing England with the two big middle-order wickets.
First was Babar Azam for 5, feeling outside off stump and giving Stokes the chance to make up for his error, and next came skipper Azhar Ali, pinned lbw full on middle stump on 18.
Once again, Woakes was making a fair case as the team’s most dangerous weapon in home conditions. Bess and Anderson failed to keep a lid on the scoring, going at almost four an over, meaning their captain had to look elsewhere for inspiration.
Dom Sibley obliged when he rushed in from point to run out Shafiq after a poor call from Mohammad Rizwan, and Stokes put concerns over his quad complaint aside to volunteer for his first bowl of the match.
He struck with his eighth attempt, forcing Rizwan back and earning a tight lbw, and when Broad picked up Shadab via DRS the tail was well and truly open. Stokes bounced out Shaheen in the final over of the day, leaving everything to play for.
If Pakistan can add 20 or 30 runs, spin consultant Mushtaq Ahmed said legspinners Yasir Shah and Shadab Khan are good enough to defend it.
“They can be lethal,” Mushtaq said. “Yasir and Shadab have hardly played cricket for the last five or six months, but the way they bowled in the first innings I think they’ve got the momentum now.
“They understand the pitch and what pace you need to bowl on it, what fields you need to have to different batsmen. I think they are feeling confident in their bowling now. We are very confident.”
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