Pakistan 499-7 as England keep hopes alive for victory

RAWALPINDI: England kept their hopes alive to pull off a win against Pakistan in the first Test as some late wickets on day three put them in a commanding position at Pindi Cricket Stadium Rawalpindi on Saturday.

At stumps Pakistan was 499-7, still trailing by 158 in reply to England’s mammoth total of 657 all out.

There were three centurions for Pakistan as captain Babar Azam (136), Imam-ul-Haq (121) and Abdullah Shafique (114) hammered tons.

Abdullah and Imam scored their third Test centuries off 177 (13 4s and 3 6s) and 180 (15 4s and 2 6s) balls respectively, taking their overnight opening stand from 181 to 225.

Abdullah continued exhibiting his superb class as the right-hander now has scored three centuries and four fifties from eight matches, averaging 76.

Rawalpindi is also turning into a great venue for left-hander Imam as he has now scored each of his three Test hundreds to date on this ground.

The morning session belonged to England as they picked up three Pakistan wickets, including two openers and one-down batter Azhar Ali.

England got the breakthrough just under an hour into day three with Abdullah attempting to cut a wide ball from Jacks Leach away and edging it behind to wicketkeeper. Five overs later,  Imam holed out off left-arm off-spinner Jacks Leach just to find Ollie Robinson taking his catch at long-on.

Azhar was also pinned lbw by Leach at 27. Close to lunch, Pakistan were 290-3.

Babar, who was in excellent touch shared a fourth-wicket partnership of 123 with Saud Shakeel (37) as England endured a barren middle session. He then added 60 from 75 balls with Mohammad Rizwan, taking Pakistan away from the follow-on mark. He smashed 19 boundaries and a huge six.

Around 40 minutes to stumps, Babar chopped Jacks to backward point. After that James Anderson had Rizwan snared by Stokes at midwicket, while Naseem Shah also handed over his catch at the same position as three wickets tumbled for 24 runs. At the end of the third day Agha Salman and Zahid Mehmood were unbeaten on 10 and 1 respectively.

The match is the first Test in history where both opening partnerships shared double century stands (Abdullah and Imam for Pakistan, Ben Duckett and Zak Crawley for England), and four players scored tons.

Later in a post-match press conference, Imam said the pitch was wearing now. “It is keeping slightly low now and there will definitely be change in the last two days,” he said.

“We’ve have been going through such situations before so a lot will depend on the first session tomorrow,” he added.

Jacks, who picked up Abdullah and Babar’s wickets said: “That wicket (Babar’s) was the game-changing moment.”

He believed it was a great day for England bowlers as they grabbed seven wickets. “The match is in progress and the pitch will get more turn”, he added.





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