Babar Azam playing a cover drive on the third day of the first cricket Test against England in Rawalpindi on Saturday.

Tea: Pakistan 411 for 3 (Imam 121, Shafique 114, Babar 106*, Shakeel 35*, Leach 2-134) trail England 657 by 246 runs)

With runs flowing so thick they have almost lost meaning, there was no way Babar Azam was going to miss out. Babar, the Pakistan captain, posted his eighth Test century in a fine display as the first Test, which began with England’s torrent at better than a run a ball throughout a mammoth first-innings 657, meandered more sedately through the third day.

In desperate attempts to gain something – anything – on a Rawalpindi pitch that has now produced a staggering seven centuries, Joe Root roamed round the field seeking sweaty foreheads to rub directly with the ball, first seizing on Jack Leach’s bald pate and then thrusting it under the raised peak of Ollie Pope’s cap.

It was in vain as England failed to add to the three wickets they claimed before lunch and Babar went to tea unbeaten on 106 with debutant Saud Shakeel offering able support with 35.

Babar punished anything short, swinging Wil Jacks powerfully through the leg side for four three times either side of his advance down the pitch to launch Leach for six over long-on to bring up his fifty.

Root, bowling wide of off stump with five fielders on the off side, failed to frustrate Babar, who simply stepped across and hammered the ball straight past the bowler to the boundary.

Ben Stokes entered the fray to try and make something happen, but after nailing a bouncer his next delivery, a softer short ball was met with disdain by Babar, who dispatched it down the ground to move to 90. Twice more in the space of four balls he sent Stokes short balls to the boundary, the latter flayed through the covers to bring up his first Test hundred against England.

Earlier, three wickets to spin had put England back in control after centuries to Pakistan openers Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq laid down a roadblock on their rampage of the first day-and-a-half.

Having resumed on 181 without loss, Pakistan were 298 for 3 at lunch, thanks to Jacks’ maiden Test wicket followed by two to frontline spinner Leach, including one with the new ball.

Shafique, who started the day on 89, was first to raise his century, in the fifth over of the day, clubbing Root over the rope at deep midwicket to move to 99 before carving the next ball behind point for a single. Imam navigated his way through the 90s a little nervously before following his partner to a ton with four through the leg side off Root.

It was the first time a Test match had featured two double-century opening stands and only the second time the four openers had scored tons, though the first time it had occurred in the first two innings.

It wasn’t until Jacks replaced Root that England finally made the breakthrough. Jacks’ first ball of the day was pummelled through the covers by Shafique but, three balls later, Shafique tried to cut a wider one and edged behind to keeper Pope, standing in for Ben Foakes, who was too ill with the stomach bug which hit the England camp on match eve to start.

While they hadn’t been scoring at England’s blistering rate, Pakistan’s opening stand of 225 didn’t look bad in comparison to the record 233 put on by Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett.

Imam launched Leach for six over wide long-on the over after Shafique was dismissed, but Leach soon responded with the second wicket of the morning, Imam picking out Ollie Robinson at long-on to fall for 121.

James Anderson saw a chance go begging when he found an inside edge off Azhar Ali only to see it zip through Crawley’s fingers at leg slip as he reached to his left. Despite faint hints of reverse swing, England took the new ball and handed it to Leach, and he trapped Azhar lbw almost immediately with one that skidded on to the knee roll in line with leg stump.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here