England v Pakistan: Ben Stokes inspires home fightback


‘That is plumb’ – Woakes traps Azhar lbw as Pakistan lose another wicket
First Test, Emirates Old Trafford (day three of five)
Pakistan 326 & 137-8: Shafiq 29, Stokes 2-11, Woakes 2-11
England 219: Pope 62, Buttler 38, Yasir 4-66

England are clinging on in the first Test against Pakistan after a Ben Stokes-led fightback on a fluctuating third day at Emirates Old Trafford.

The home side took four wickets for 27 runs, including two for Stokes, in the fading light to leave Pakistan 137-8, leading by 244.

Even now that represents a formidable target for England to chase on a surface spitting and biting for the spin bowlers.

History is not on their side, either. Only once before have more runs been chased in the fourth innings to win a Test on this ground.

Earlier England, who were 92-4 overnight, salvaged something from their first innings by reaching 219.

Ollie Pope moved on to 62 and Jos Buttler came through a forensic examination from Mohammad Abbas to edge his way to 38.

Buttler was the first in a slump of three wickets for 11 runs, an overall final collapse of 5-60.

All of those wickets fell to leg-spin, Yasir Shah ending with 4-66 and Shadab Khan picking up 2-13.

England cling on

This was a fascinating and entertaining day, containing the fall of 13 wickets and, for long periods, the feeling that England were fatally damaged by their previous errors.

Lives given by wicketkeeper Buttler to Shan Masood, who made 156, captain Joe Root’s tactics and finding themselves 12-3 on Thursday evening left England in an almost hopeless situation.

That they are not entirely out of the contest is thanks to the way they battled in the face of some relentless pace bowling in the morning session, and a late flurry of wickets when Pakistan were on the brink of moving out of sight.

At 101-4, the tourists were 208 ahead, gathering runs quickly and heaping frustration on an increasingly dejected home side.

England’s inspiration first came from a direct-hit run out from Dom Sibley, then the introduction of irrepressible Stokes, who was not thought to be fit to bowl in this match.

He had Mohammad Rizwan lbw and bounced out Shaheen Afridi either side of Stuart Broad trapping Shadab to give England an outside chance of victory in what promises to be a thrilling conclusion.

Stokes does it again

Even when he is not fully fit and after he registered a duck in the first innings, the talismanic Stokes has still found a way to influence this match.

His introduction was a final throw of the dice for England, but immediately he unsettled Rizwan before pinning him to the crease for the lbw decision.

Before that point, Pakistan’s steady accumulation was gradually putting the game beyond England. Stokes had dropped Abid Ali at second slip off James Anderson, who himself put down a tough chance at point off Chris Woakes.

The latter chance came during a Woakes spell where his full length accounted for Babar Azam and Azhar Ali, Pakistan’s two best players, to leave Pakistan 63-4.

However, with off-spinner Dom Bess unable to exert control in the helpful conditions, Rizwan added useful runs with Asad Shafiq and Shadab.

Then came Sibley’s athletic run out of Shafiq and another inspirational Stokes performance.

More to follow.

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