When the sun dipped below the rooftops next to the Pindi Stadium and the players went off, Pakistan were 80 for two with the damage to Azhar unknown, 263 short of their gettable target. Imam Ul Haq and Saud Shakeel have put the game in the balance with a lively 55-run stand. This is not over yet. Both teams fancy it. It is going to be a cracker of a final day.
England need eight wickets for only their third ever Test win in Pakistan and seventh out of eight under Stokes and Brendon McCullum. Twelve wickets fell on Sunday, mostly down to England’s attacking intent with ball and bat.
Will Jacks’s six wickets in the first innings, eye-rubbingly remarkable when you think he had not taken a first-class wicket until last year, helped wrap up Pakistan’s first innings with England taking a 149-run lead.
We knew what was coming next but it was still a thrilling ride. Normally the third-innings declaration set-up is the most predictable and boring aspect of Test cricket. But not this time. England rattled through to 264 for seven in 35.5 overs, declaring at tea and dangling a nice little tempter in the eyes of the Pakistan side.
A target of 343 in four sessions and a theoretical 130 overs (more likely around 110 given bad light) at an approximate 3.5 an over on a flat pitch doing very little took the draw out of the equation. Bat through and Pakistan win. They are going at 4.4 already.
Remember, England have not drawn under Stokes, and Root said at the end of play on Saturday they would rather lose chasing a win than shut up shop. They stayed true to their word.
Pakistan chased 344 to win in Sri Lanka just two Test matches ago, their target here would require the slowest paced innings of the match. There is one unquantifiable factor: pressure.
Will they back off? Ramiz Raja, the chairman of the PCB, summed up life in the furnace of Pakistan cricket the other day when he said there are “220 million people” in Pakistan and “220 million of them think they can do my job better.” Now imagine how the players feel. After scoring 579 in their first innings, to lose would be shameful.
England race through their second innings
England have dictated terms from the first over on Thursday which Zak Crawley whacked for 14 runs. England’s first task on Sunday was finishing off Pakistan’s tail which took longer than expected as they added 80 for three. Jacks took all the wickets to fall, Ollie Pope grabbed the first stumping of his professional career to complete the five fer. Jacks took one more and became the first spinner to take five wickets or more in his first innings for England since Peter Such in 1993 – five years before Jacks was born. His confidence will be sky high.
Ben Duckett made a hundred in the first innings, a golden duck in the second when he guided a catch to slip in the first over. Pope, tired after 155 overs of keeping, holed out for 15 before lunch but Crawley eased to a cavalier fifty while Root wanted to make up for missing out in the first innings.
Crawley was strangled down the leg side, but Root opened up, easing to a half century without you barely noticing. It was then he decided to be cheeky. He shadow batted left-handed at the non-striker’s end before adopting it to leggie Zehid Mahmood. It so surprised Pakistan they did not bother to change the field. It was almost a disaster, his second ball sweep shot was dropped at square leg (or was it point?). He gave it up and reverted to orthodoxy after that and was soon out for 73 off 69.
It left the stage for Brook. He hits the ball so hard, just like his hero AB De Villiers, whom he would try to copy as kid at Burley in Wharfedale Cricket Club playing with his grandad.
He smashed three sixes, one of them took Zehid’s match figures beyond 300, only the second bowler ever to be battered so hard on debut, and was threatening Gilbert Jessop’s 120-year record for the fastest England hundred that he missed by only five balls in the first innings. On 87 off 64 he had plenty of time but was bowled middle stump. Jessop’s record lives another day but this team will surely break it soon.