Close Pakistan 202 (Babar 75, Shakeel 63, Leach 4-98) and 198 for 4 (Shakeel 54*, Faheem 3*) need another 157 runs to beat England 281 (Duckett 63, Pope 60, Abrar 7-114) and 275 (Brook 108, Abrar 4-120)
It had been another gripping day of ebb-and-flow Test cricket, with Pakistan’s evening alliance mirroring their free-flowing opening stand of 64 in 15 overs before lunch, in which Mohammad Rizwan – promoted to open after Imam was sent for a scan on a damaged hamstring – and Abdullah Shafique saw off the new ball at a brisk tempo of 4.27 an over.
Harry Brook celebrates his second Test hundred•AFP/Getty Images
Anderson’s first four deliveries of the session were negotiated safely enough, but the fifth was simply unplayable – a full-length seaming delivery that angled in at Rizwan then jagged wickedly around his outside edge to hit the top of off. Rizwan looked dumbfounded as he turned to survey the wreckage, but he had to go for 30 from 43 balls, and England had their opening at 66 for 1.
Babar Azam had his off stump pegged back by Ollie Robinson•Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
At 83 for 3, Pakistan’s innings was pinned to the ropes. But with his notable willingness to save his seamers for the key moments, Stokes instead leaned heavily on his spinners with in-out fields, tempting Pakistan to hit through the phalanx of close catchers. Once again, his first-innings weapon, Jack Leach, was Stokes’ most trusted option, but with two left-handers lining him up, Leach endured some rough treatment, going at 4.40 in the course of his 20 overs. Until, of course, he produced the moment that repaid the faith, and unlocked England’s prospects of closing out the game.
The opportunities had kept coming regardless, up until that moment – on 4, Shakeel top-edged a slog-sweep off Root that fell short of Wood, set a few metres too deep at midwicket, while on 19, Imam drilled a hard chance back down the pitch at Will Jacks, who couldn’t cling on. The biggest let-off, however, came deep into the final session, as Imam, then on 54, flicked his bat at a leg-side lifter but Stokes declined the review that would have shown a faint tickle. It was the slightest indication that England’s captain was starting to feel the heat, as Imam and Shakeel grew in confidence with a series of sweetly-timed cover drives, particularly off the then-leaky Leach.
Despite the excitement generated by England’s trio of early wickets, England found little in the way of reverse-swing as the innings progressed, on a day-three pitch that was arguably playing at its best. Stokes himself resisted any temptation to break the emergency glass and bring himself on for a spell, although that prospect remains for an intriguing fourth-day finish, when only the draw will be off the table.
Imam-ul-Haq and Saud Shakeel’s partnership frustrated England•PCB
In spite of Pakistan’s relative success in the morning session, the major milestone had belonged to Brook, who converted his overnight 74 to his second hundred in four innings on this trip. By the time he holed out to deep square leg for 108, Brook had racked up 14 fours and a six in his 149-ball stay, replete with powerful strokeplay and impressive judgement of length, particularly against the spin of Abrar, who was once again Pakistan’s most threatening bowler, as he finished with 4 for 120, and an 11-wicket match haul on debut.
Before he could convert that start into anything more meaningful, however, Stokes got underneath a heave to leg, where Ali on the midwicket boundary ran round for a well-judged catch. Robinson then missed a slog to leg as Abrar skidded a googly through his gate for his 11th wicket, before Wood poked a fast legbreak from Zahid Mahmood to slip and Anderson missed a reverse sweep to wrap up the innings. At that stage, and again after lunch, England were perfectly content with their match situation. By the close, notwithstanding Leach’s late breakthrough, they were a touch less comfortable.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket