Signing off for today, here is Ali Martin’s report from Karachi:
Living the dream, 100 per cent
Rehan Ahmed is talking to Mike Atherton. A dream debut? “Yeah, 100 per cent,” he says, smiling and chewing gum.
“You did start to get that leg-spinner to go a bit,” Atherton says, “and therefore the wicket of Mohammad Rizwan would have pleased you a lot?”
“Yeah, 100 per cent,” he says again. “I’ve been working on that for the last two months. Just some side-spin.”
Back in the studio, Stuart Broad reiterates his point about the timing of that five-for. “It was a match-winning spell.”
Are you concerned about your position as a nighthawk, Ian Ward wonders. Broad plays along gamely. “The definition of a nighthawk isn’t necessarily how many runs you put on the board, it’s the style. My back foot wouldn’t go like that [when Rehan played his best stroke, the inside-out cover drive]. Strike rate above a hundred, that’s a tick. Getting out to a hack, that’s a tick.”
Time for me to sign off. I’m due back for the second half of tomorrow, but that will only happen if there’s a monsoon. England are in charge again, thanks to their new boy, and Jim Wallace will be with you at 5am (UK time) to see if they can seal the deal. Thanks for your company, correspondence and wisecracks about Geoff Boycott. And a happy Christmas! I hope it’s as much fun as watching this England.
Stumps! The day belongs to Rehan
17th over: England 112-2 (Duckett 50, Stokes 10) Ben Duckett hasn’t had much of the strike lately, but he has it at the start of this Nauman over and he uses it to sweep a single and reach another fine fifty. If it wasn’t for Harry Brook, he’d be the player of the series. Stokes adds a pull for four, and then the umps call it a day. Azhar Ali leads the Pakistan team off on the eve of his retirement. He didn’t get a run today but he has been given some good ovations.
The day belongs, though, to a player at the other end of his Test career: Rehan Ahmed, 18 with a bullet. He took five wickets in no time and made sure that England are now hot favourites for a historic whitewash. And he did it with a broad smile.
16th over: England 107-2 (Duckett 49, Stokes 6) Joel Wilson gets the light meter out, perhaps worrying that he will be hit by a flying bat. Abrar manages to get through an over conceding only two. It’s not easy to see why Stokes promoted himself here – right-and-left was going swimmingly, and Ollie Pope is no slouch.
15th over: England 105-2 (Duckett 48, Stokes 5) It’s back to spin at both ends as Nauman returns – and he has Duckett dropped. By himself! Oh dear. Stokes then goes for a big hit – so big that his bat flies to square leg. It’s all happening.
“Afternoon Tim, everyone,” says Rod. “Question: are England having too much fun? I mean, it’s supposed to be a job... Yours, disgruntled at work.”
14th over: England 101-2 (Duckett 47, Stokes 3) And the next nighthawk is … Ben Stokes! He dances down to his first two balls, picking up an easy two and then, as Abrar deceives him in the air, a jammy single. There are, in theory, eight overs remaining, and England need 66.
Wicket! Rehan Ahmed b Abrar 10 (England 97-2)
Boooo! Rehan aims for cow corner and misses. He may have got carried away after playing a gorgeous shot, an inside-out cover drive, and clocking up his latest first – reaching double figures.
13th over: England 93-1 (Duckett 46, Rehan 6) Facing seam, Rehan decides it’s time to invent a new shot: the cover forehand, played with a whiff of ballet. He gets a run for it too.
“Good afternoon Tim,” says V Krishnamoorthy. “I am still nursing the ruptured arteries from last night and now I am going to have them ruptured again. A 3-0 against Pakistan in Pakistan. U N B E L I E V A B L E !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
12th over: England 92-1 (Duckett 46, Rehan 5) And he follows his first five-for with his first four! Off the first ball of this innings, too: he just sails down the track and lofts it over mid-off. On today’s evidence, he has just the right amount of confidence.
Stokes springs yet another surprise: Rehan Ahmed, coming in at No 3, as the nighthawk.
Wicket! Crawley lbw b Abrar 41 (England 87-1)
Abrar bowls a straight one, Crawley misses a sweep, Joel Wilson’s finger goes up. There’s a delay while the review throws up a replay of … a different ball. “No, ‘it’s the sweep!” says the fourth ump, before confirming that it is indeed out. A crumb of comfort for Pakistan.
11th over: England 87-0 (Crawley 41, Duckett 46) Babar, who is looking understandably frazzled, calls for a review as Crawley flicks at Wasim outside leg stump. Not even close. Then he goes for another one – a better call, as Crawley misses a yorker and gets hit on the back foot, but it’s going down. Having your best batter as the captain is proving a bad idea, not for the first time in Test history.
Duckett picks up another four with that square drive of his. The lights are on now, joining some thin wintry sunshine, and the umpires have had the meters out. England’s celebrations may have to wait till tomorrow.
10th over: England 80-0 (Crawley 38, Duckett 42) Just when it looks as if they’re getting ’em in singles, Duckett spies some width from Faheem and plays a square drive for four – then does it again! England need another 87.
9th over: England 70-0 (Crawley 37, Duckett 33) Wasim keeps it tight. Not sure what’s gone wrong here, but the run rate has plummeted to just under eight.
“Tim,” says Kim Thonger, “to wind Geoffrey up, in this remarkable new cricketing epoch in which we find ourselves, can we redesignate his famed space outside off stump The Corridor of Flamboyancy?” Haha.
8th over: England 67-0 (Crawley 36, Duckett 31) Heartened by that change, Babar makes another, replacing Nauman with Faheem Ashraf, so it’s seam at both ends. His over goes for only three, which is like bowling a maiden to any normal pair of Test openers.
“Presumably the best way to avoid getting caught on a fifth-day wicket,” says Janet Stevens, “is not to let the match go to a fifth day?” Ha. “Happy Christmas Tim and all OBO colleagues – Janet in France.” Thanks and Happy Christmas to you too.
7th over: England 64-0 (Crawley 35, Duckett 29) Babar Azam is not a dynamic captain, but even he can see the need for a change here. He takes Abrar off and turns to seam in the shape of Mohammad Wasim. It helps a bit but Duckett, unperturbed, plays a clip for four with sweet timing.
England need 103 more. “What a stunning performance it has been,” says Mike Atherton, “on these flat unresponsive pitches, to bowl Pakistan out every time.”
“England (men and women) have played some pretty decent cricket in 2022,” says John Starbuck. “I hope there’s going to be at least a two-page spread on this in the Guardian before 2023.”
6th over: England 58-0 (Crawley 34, Duckett 24) Crawley plays a gorgeous shot – an inside-out off-drive, threaded into a slender gap. And that’s the fifty partnership, off 28 balls. He celebrates by going aerial with an on-drive, not lofted but skimmed over mid-on.
5th over: England 48-0 (Crawley 25, Duckett 23) Crawley, facing Abrar, plays a sweep of great delicacy, as if to say, “It’s not all biffing, you know.” The graphics people do a little compilation of the best shots of this innings and caption it “Powerplay”. Test cricket is so much fun now.
Something for his family to frame
4th over: England 41-0 (Crawley 20, Duckett 21) Duckett brings out the reverse sweep and gets four for it, but this is a better over from Nauman, using his experience to manage some dots. Even so, Duckett has 21 off ten balls, Crawley 20 off 14. Can someone get a comment from Geoff Boycott?
3rd over: England 34-0 (Crawley 19, Duckett 15) Duckett is facing Abrar for the first time today. Does he take a couple of balls to settle in? He does not – he just whacks him over mid-on for four. Crawley sees that and trumps it with an on-drive, very Pietersenesque, and a straight drive. They’re chugging along at 11 an over.
2nd over: England 21-0 (Crawley 11, Duckett 10) Anything Crawley can do, Duckett can do too, in his own way – not driving but sweeping and pulling. First he plays a pull for four off Nauman Ali, placed very precisely between short midwicket and mid-on, then a sweep for four more. Another sweep might bring another four if it didn’t clatter into Shafique’s knee at short leg (ouch!) and go away for a single. Crawley then joins in the supermarket sweep with a paddle for three. They’re going for it tonight!
“That last wicket,” says Daniel Howell, “‘c Brook b Rehan’. Wonder how often we will be seeing that over the coming decade or so…”
1st over: England 8-0 (Crawley 8, Duckett 0) Not even Stokes’s England can hit 167 in 80 minutes, can they? They seem to be thinking about it. Abrar Ahmed opens the bowling again and Crawley, who fell to him for a duck in the first innings, doesn’t let that bother him – he comes down the track and on-drives the first ball for four, before adding a cover drive for four more. Then there’s an LBW appeal and a review, but Crawley is so far down the pitch that the impact is umpire’s call, so he survives.
“Seven down,” says Kim Thonger. “993 to go! Well done Rehan.”
“Congrats to Rehan!” says Michael Friend. “What a performance. Imagine how proud Shane Warne would have been. He recognised talent when he saw it.” He certainly did. Somewhere up there, a contented chortle is ringing out.
Take that, Pat
England need 167 to win (in two days)
So the wicket was Salman Agha, c Brook b Rehan 21, the target is 167 and Rehan finishes with five for 48. At 18! Either Stokes brought him on at just the right moment, or he took far too long and then got lucky. “The best thing about it,” says Stuart Broad, “is that it’s a game-changer.”
Five for Rehan! Pakistan 216 all out
He’s done it!! Salman Agha top-edges a sweep, it’s an easy catch for someone at short fine leg, and that’s the five-for for Rehan Ahmed, aged 18. He sinks to his knees and kisses the turf of his father’s homeland, before leading the team off, smiling broadly. His dad, in the stand, dabs a tear from his eye. A fabulous moment.
74th over: Pakistan 214-9 (Agha 19, Abrar 1) As well as being his partner’s helmet-bearer, Salman Agha has to farm the strike. He manages it in this over from Wood, playing out four dots, then fending off a bouncer to nick a single. Abrar, helmet on at last, has one ball to face and gets rapped on the pad. It’s missing leg but Stokes tries a review.
“Morning Tim, morning everyone!” says Harkarn Sumal. “The most commonly heard phrase in modern Test cricket is surely ‘I’m afraid you’re going to have to reverse your decision, Joel. You’re on camera now.’” Harsh but funny.
73rd over: Pakistan 213-9 (Agha 18, Abrar 1) One Ahmed faces another – Abrar, trying to stop Rehan doing what he did the other day, grabbing a five-for on debut. His approach to batting is an unusual one, bringing a helmet out but getting his partner Salman Agha to carry it for him.
Wicket! Wasim c Robinson b Rehan 2 (Pakistan 211-9)
A four-for for Rehan Ahmed! In his first Test and fourth first-class match. He tosses the googly up, inviting something florid, and Mohammad Wasim obliges with a clonk to mid-off. Rehan has a chance of five now…
72nd over: Pakistan 210-8 (Agha 16, Wasim 2) Here’s Mohammad Wasim, who knows all about inswinging yorkers, which is lucky as he gets one right away and clips it for two. But that over is another feather in the cap of Mark Wood, who is a great bowler overseas.
Wicket! Nauman lbw b Wood 15 (Pakistan 208-8)
The breakthrough! And the first wicket for a seamer in this innings. Wood pushes Nauman back with a bouncer, then thumps a fuller ball into the pad, somewhere near leg stump. It’s not given on the field by Joel Wilson, but Stokes reviews and gets it right as the three reds come up.
71st over: Pakistan 208-7 (Agha 16, Nauman 15) While Stokes rings the changes at one end, Rehan wheels away at the other. His 11th over on the trot is back in his tidy mode, going for just two singles.
70th over: Pakistan 206-7 (Agha 14, Nauman 15) Sure enough, here comes Mark Wood, with a slip, a leg slip and a short leg – not Pope but Stokes, who must surely have a private bet with a mate to see if he can spring ten surprises a day.
“Sitting on a Danish ferry,” says the next email, “cold and wet outside and effing handball highlights on the communal TV. Your MBM a great comfort. A question (disclaimer – I love cricket but there is SO much I still don’t understand) – you always talk about pitches deteriorating over the course of a Test match. Presumably this is player-induced wear and tear rather than natural entropy. So is the biff and baff of Bazzball resulting in pitches deteriorating much faster? Or is over rate the determinant? Just wondering.
“Thanks for the great coverage – keeping me sane. John Moloney, M/S Ærøskøbing, somewhere in the Baltic.” Thank you! I’m no groundsman but I believe the deterioration is both of the above – the fats bowlers cause the rough, but nature plays a part too as the pitch is exposed to the sun.
69th over: Pakistan 206-7 (Agha 14, Nauman 15) Rehan drops short again, outside off this time, and Agha cuts him for four. Time for some seam, surely.
“Ho ho ho,” says Maurice Crichton. “I’m impersonating a certain gentleman in red velvet all week in a barn near Thirsk.” Love it. “A small group of around 20 comes through at 15-minute intervals for a story and a chat. My little world includes an eco-fuelled stove, a tuneless piano, a beautiful Christmas tree and an elf called Robin. Between groups there’s just time to check on the latest position in Karachi. It’s beginning to look a lot like 3-0.”
As OBO contributions go, that is one of the best.
68th over: Pakistan 200-7 (Agha 9, Nauman 14) Back to form, Stokes replaces Leach with Root. He bowls something “almost unique,” according to David Gower: a slower-ball bouncer. Should that be even-slower-ball? It nearly works too, as Nauman plays a surprised pop-pull that could have gone to hand at mid-on, but instead goes for two. Pakistan lead by 150.
67th over: Pakistan 197-7 (Agha 8, Nauman 12) If you’re bowling for Ben Stokes’s team, the one way to be be sure of staying on is to dish up a really poor over. Not that it’s bad captaincy: Rehan duly follows his mini-shocker with something much steadier, conceding just a single to each batter.
“Jimmy Anderson’s 675 Test wickets,” Kim Thonger notes, “have come in 177 Tests over 19 years at 3.81 per game. If Rehan is a fixture in this side until he’s, say, 40, which ought to be possible, perhaps probable, he’s almost bound to overtake Jimmy isn’t he? Maybe 1000 victims should be his goal? He looks more than capable of achieving it.”
Probable?! Tell that to Matt Parkinson, Scott Borthwick, Ian Salisbury ..
66th over: Pakistan 195-7 (Agha 7, Nauman 11) Leach gets a two-over spell! And finds the inside edge of Agha’s bat with an arm ball, but there’s no short leg, oddly, and it dribbles harmlessly away.
65th over: Pakistan 193-7 (Agha 6, Nauman 10) Rehan tries his trusty long hop, twice, and gets pulled for four, twice, by Nauman Ali, who is twice his age.
“Research should pull up the fact that the ‘Bosie’ derives from the inventions of Bernard Bosanquet, which just goes to show that adding ‘ie’ or ‘y’ to a cricketer’s surname was prevalent in the 1890s too.” Ha. Do you think WG was known to his team-mates as Gracie?
64th over: Pakistan 184-7 (Agha 5, Nauman 2) Leach and Root really do seem to be sharing an end – never mind the wicket, Leach comes back on. Agha responds with a lap-sweep for two, the best shot for some time.
63rd over: Pakistan 181-7 (Agha 2, Nauman 2) Rehan keeps the pressure on by beating Salman Agha with a leg-break.
Going onto WhatsApp, I find a message from when he took his first wicket today. It’s from Steven Lynch, Wisden veteran, author of the legendary Ask Steven column, and a leggie himself. “Typical legspinner,” said Steven, “Good ball driven for four, crappy short one drilled straight to midwicket,.”
62nd over: Pakistan 179-7 (Agha 1, Nauman 1) Stokes has often seemed to have a golden arm as a bowler and now he has a golden hand as a captain. His policy of giving Leach and Root alternate overs pays off as Root not only dismisses Ashraf but then twice beats Nauman Ali, another left-hander, outside off. Pakistan lead by 129, they’ve lost four for 15, and we could even have a result tonight!
Wicket! Faheem Ashraf c Foakes b Root 1 (Pakistan 178-7)
One brings four! Joe Root turns his off-break – a leggie to the left-hander – out of the rough, and Faheem, going for a big hit, can only offer another comfortable catch to Ben Foakes.
61st over: Pakistan 178-6 (Agha 1, Ashraf 1) Rehan continues and beats Salman Agha outside off. Not sure if it’s him or the pitch, but his leg-break is turning just enough to threaten the edge. As Mark Butcher pointed out in the tea break, Anil Kumble took hundreds of Test wickets without getting big turn.
“Enjoying nice sunset in Siquijor, Philippines,” says Clive Russell, “and started a Google search on the googly. (Apparently also known as a Bosie) Just wondering how easy it is for a batsman to spot one.” Ha – that rather depends on the bowler. Now that you’ve searched for the googly on Google, I trust you will search for the Bosie on a Bose hi-fi.
“Since you asked…” says Lindley Owen, picking up on my plea from the 55th over. “Reading about a teenager getting cheap wickets in sunny Karachi while winter rain lashes this OAP on the darkest day, makes the latter easier to bear!”
The board is beckoning
Tea: England back on top
60th over: Pakistan 177-6 (Agha 1, Ashraf 0) Stokes, still mixing it up, takes Root off after a single over and brings back Leach. He bowls a maiden to Salman Agha and that’s tea, with England well on top. The session looked like belonging to Babar and Shakeel, only for Rehan Ahmed to nip in and remove them both. He has 3-21, his Test-best. Pakistan’s lead is a fragile 127.
“The OBO,” says John Atkinson, “is providing welcome light relief from an airport delay. Flight to Vancouver was due to leave 2 and a half hours ago. Auckland time means that it’s now nearly 22:30 and the 9 y old and 5 y old are restless. Interested to see how this one pans out – Pakistan know England will chase anything so can’t see a declaration any time soon. [This was before the flurry of wickets.'] Keep up the good work.” Thanks! Hope the kids settle.
59th over: Pakistan 177-6 (Agha 1, Ashraf 0) So Rehan has done what Leach did earlier today and taken three wickets in no time. His Test bowling average is 22!
“When I was 18,” says Ollie Benson, “I worked at a newsagent and was perpetually stoned. Rehan you legend!”
Wicket!! Shakeel c Leach b Rehan 53 (Pakistan 177-6)
Rehan does it again! His googly bamboozles Shakeel, who goes for the sweep and can only top-edge to backward square, where Leach takes a simple catch.
58th over: Pakistan 176-5 (Shakeel 53, Agha 0) Stokes, not one to rest on his laurels, takes Leach off and turns to Root for an over or two before tea. His old mate responds with a maiden to Shakeel.
That catch from Foakes, by the way, was his 50th in Tests. He’s been quietly excellent here: it was his partnership with Brook that got rid of Babar in the first innings – a fizzing throw, a wide-awake take – even before they added a hundred to turn the tide in the middle of England’s innings.
57th over: Pakistan 176-5 (Shakeel 53, Agha 0) Rehan beats Salman Agha first ball to make it three victories in a row, two of them moral. Rizwan, before his demise, had just spooned a cut to short extra, where Crawley spilled it down near his left ankle.
Wicket!! Rizwan c Foakes b Rehan 7 (Pakistan 176-5)
The kid stays in the picture! A classical leg-break, kissing the outside edge, and that’s the end of Rizwan – who may have been dropped the ball before. England are back on top, thanks to an 18-year-old.
56th over: Pakistan 173-4 (Shakeel 52, Rizwan 5) Rizwan, facing Leach, props forward and gives a quarter-chance to Pope at silly point. He’s very close in, and rightly so as the ball lands just under his hands – but it means he doesn’t quite have time to get those hands down to where the ball is, dying on him.
55th over: Pakistan 173-4 (Shakeel 52, Rizwan 5) After getting lucky with one long hop, Rehan reckons he’ll try another, but Rizwan has no trouble pulling it for three. Ben Duckett, at deep square, makes a fine rolling save.
If you feel an email coming on, now would be a great time – especially if you haven’t written to us before. It can be about anything from the cricket to the weather, which, outside my window, is startlingly mild, as if last week never happened.
54th over: Pakistan 168-4 (Shakeel 51, Rizwan 1) As the door comes ajar, Stokes decides it’s time for spin at both ends, so here’s Jack Leach, with a slip and one man at bat-pad. He’s the world’s leading wicket-taker this year, rather improbably. Saud Shakeel tucks him for an easy two to reach his fourth fifty of the series. He’s achieved formidable consistency, without actually having much impact.
53rd over: Pakistan 164-4 (Shakeel 48, Rizwan 0) Babar had reached yet another fifty in a bizarre way – he played an on-drive straight to Stokes, who whipped in an overzealous throw and gave away four overthrows. Then it turned out that all those full deliveries were just a smart ploy from Rehan, setting Babar up for the short one.
WICKET! Babar c Pope b Rehan 54 (Pakistan 164-4)
The kid does the trick! And he displays the priceless knack of taking a wicket with a bad ball. This is a long hop, and Babar pulls it straight to short midwicket, where Ollie Pope takes a blinder.
52nd over: Pakistan 156-3 (Shakeel 48, Babar 46) Wood is bowling at Shakeel without a single catcher, unless you count the man just in front of square leg. When he bowls a well-aimed bouncer, Shakeel can fend it off without worrying about a pop to – oh hang on, there is a short leg in now. Wood bowls a maiden: Jimmy would approve.
A table on the screen tells us that England have never chased more than 209 to win a Test in the subcontinent. But all those chases were back in prehistoric times, before the Stokes-McCullum revolution.
51st over: Pakistan 156-3 (Shakeel 48, Babar 46) It’s Rehan time! At last. It would have been a lot easier for him to come on before these two had added a hundred, but he makes a decent start – a single to each batter, and then he ties Babar down by bowling full and straight. Perhaps he’s looking for the reverse-swinging yorker.
50th over: Pakistan 154-3 (Shakeel 47, Babar 45) Well, we have got a bowling change, but it’s not Rehan – it’s Mark Wood. In the absence of Jimmy Anderson, he’s been England’s Mr Thrift, conceding only 45 off 22 overs before this one. Now he blots his copybook by giving Babar just enough scope for a cover drive and a back-foot off-drive. The partnership passes 100, and so does Pakistan’s lead.
49th over: Pakistan 146-3 (Shakeel 46, Babar 38) Stokes continues, and maybe this is going to be one of those long hard spells he loves. But if so, what becomes of Rehan Ahmed? Of the 49 overs in this innings so far, he’s bowled two.
Thanks Taha and morning everyone. It’s Groundhog Day: yet another rescue act from Babar and Shakeel. If compressed Test series have a fault, it’s that the same thing keeps on happening. Just ask Harry Brook.
48th over: Pakistan 142-3 (Shakeel 45, Babar 36) Babar finishes the over with another sublime cover drive, and that’s enough from me. Tim de Lisle will take you through to stumps.
47th over: Pakistan 138-3 (Babar 32, Shakeel 45) Stokes manages to get the ball to move away from Shakeel and nab the outside edge, but there’s no carry on this pitch – the ball drops way short of Foakes behind the stumps.
46th over: Pakistan 138-3 (Shakeel 45, Babar 32) Leach is replaced by Ollie Robinson – Ahmed’s waiting game continues. Shakeel and Babar do their work in singles.
45th over: Pakistan 135-3 (Shakeel 43, Babar 31) Babar leans in to drive Stokes through point for a couple.
44th over: Pakistan 132-3 (Babar 29, Shakeel 43) Shakeel comes down the pitch once again and slaps Leach straight for four. Time for the left-armer to have a rest?
43rd over: Pakistan 126-3 (Shakeel 38, Babar 28) Babar sees off six Stokes deliveries.
42nd over: Pakistan 126-3 (Babar 28, Shakeel 38) Some real flair from Shakeel, who gets the wrists working to flick Leach away for four through the leg side. And then a run-out chance as Shakeel starts running down the wicket while Babar is stationary – but Ahmed at cover fails to pick up the ball.
An astute observation from John Bartholomew: “Is Brook the next big thing, superstar batsman after Root and Cook, future England captain, etc etc? He has the right vowels in his name. Surely that is the clincher.”
41st over: Pakistan 118-3 (Shakeel 32, Babar 26) Babar is on the move. Stokes is a touch too full and the right-hander leans in to caress the ball through the covers for another boundary. A big forward defence follows to lay out the statement: he’s in.
40th over: Pakistan 113-3 (Babar 22, Shakeel 32) Leach races through for a maiden.
39th over: Pakistan 113-3 (Shakeel 32, Babar 22) Stokes continues, and Babar lands a boundary with the final ball of the over, nailing the cover drive. He’s struggled for fluency so far today but that shot could be the one that gets him going.
38th over: Pakistan 108-3 (Babar 18, Shakeel 32) Shakeel dances forward and chips down the ground to the left of mid-off to collect four. Just for a second, he looked in a bit of trouble – but it’s excellent placement in the end.
37th over: Pakistan 104-3 (Shakeel 28, Babar 18) Stokes is getting just a bit of movement away from the right-hander, and he gets Babar to throw his hands outside off, the ball flying past the outside edge on its way to Foakes. One then tails back in, so there’s definitely a bit of reverse in the air.
36th over: Pakistan 104-3 (Babar 18, Shakeel 28) Babar clips to the leg side for a single after a string of blocks. Shakeel is watchful, too.
35th over: Pakistan 103-3 (Babar 17, Shakeel 28) Ben Stokes decides to have a go himself, so Rehan Ahmed must continue his wait for a bowl today.
34th over: Pakistan 100-3 (Babar 14, Shakeel 28) So it’s Leach to continue after lunch, and he concedes just a single to begin with.
Yes, it was quite sad to see Azhar go without scoring. But as you’re alluding to, he can, at the very least, say it was a Bradmanesque finish.
Rob Lewis from Istanbul checks in: “How are you finding it on OBO duty now you’re becoming a regular? I hope the early mornings aren’t doing your head in too much, but you seem to be coping just fine.”
Thanks Rob, I’m loving it. But I will almost certainly be heading back to bed for a nap once I wrap things up here.
John Starbuck writes in: “England to be batting by tea, perhaps?”
That’s ambitious, I’d say. Babar’s still finding his way in this innings but I’ve got a funny feeling he’s on for a big one today.
Lunch - Pakistan are 99-3, leading by 49
England’s morning, I reckon. The two Pakistan openers got off to a good start, quickly erasing the remaining deficit. But Jack Leach intervened spectacularly, taking three wickets in the space of two overs, including that of Azahar Ali in his final innings as an international cricketer. Saud Shakeel and Babar Azam have helped with the recovery, but there’s still plenty of work to do after the break.
33rd over: Pakistan 99-3 (Babar 13, Shakeel 28) Wood sprints in to bowl at Shakeel, with two men positioned close by at midwicket. I think we know what’s coming. But the quick bluffs midway through the over, attempting a yorker that is bunted away. And that’ll be lunch.
32nd over: Pakistan 99-3 (Shakeel 28, Babar 13) Leach twirls away and Shakeel keeps ticking things over.
31st over: Pakistan 96-3 (Shakeel 25, Babar 13) Mark Wood returns for a go with a ball that has shown a hint or two of reverse swing.
30th over: Pakistan 93-3 (Shakeel 23, Babar 12) Leach goes up in appeal after Babar comes down the track to play a forward defence – pad first? Stokes decides to go upstairs.
It is pad first, but Babar’s far too down the pitch so it’s umpire’s call on impact.
29th over: Pakistan 91-3 (Babar 11, Shakeel 22) Robinson briefly moves away from line and length to get the bouncer in, and he manages to nail Shakeel on the helmet. That brings a break in play but the batter is all good to continue.
Brian Withington writes in: “Been a bit delayed with wrapping presents but ‘twas good to hear Lord Gower bringing the same engaged rapier wit to the Sensodyne infomercials as he does to his cricket commentary.”
Hear, hear – it’s been pretty great to hear David Gower back on comms this series.
28th over: Pakistan 90-3 (Babar 10, Shakeel 22) Leach continues, with Babar and Shakeel knocking it about to pick up four off the over.
27th over: Pakistan 86-3 (Shakeel 19, Babar 9) Babar throws his bat outside off, but Robinson beats it with a ball that jags slightly away. Lovely lines from the quick to the right-hander. There’s a bit of reverse swing starting to show as well, with Robinson getting the ball to tail in late.
26th over: Pakistan 86-3 (Babar 9, Shakeel 19) Babar clips for a single off Leach’s first ball to bring Shakeel back on strike. After a dot, the left-hander sees some hang time on the ball and comes down the track for a lofted off-drive to the boundary. He’s looked a very tidy player all series has Shakeel, and Leach isn’t causing him too much bother here. Maybe time for a Rehan googly?
25th over: Pakistan 81-3 (Babar 8, Shakeel 15) Babar shows off a graceful clip, finding a gap in the leg side off Robinson to pick up three.
24th over: Pakistan 78-3 (Babar 5, Shakeel 15) Shakeel picks up a couple off Leach.
23rd over: Pakistan 76-3 (Shakeel 13, Babar 5) Robinson rattles through another over, conceding just one.
22nd over: Pakistan 75-3 (Shakeel 12, Babar 5) Shakeel nails another sweep off Leach, swatting the ball away for four.
21st over: Pakistan 70-3 (Shakeel 7, Babar 5) Ollie Robinson gets his first over of the innings, and a Shakeel single is the only punishment off it. Time for some drinks.
A nice touch from England after Azhar was dismissed.
20th over: Pakistan 69-3 (Shakeel 6, Babar 5) A lovely, lovely shot from Babar. He shimmies down the pitch and smothers the spin by clipping Leach through midwicket for four.
19th over: Pakistan 65-3 (Babar 1, Shakeel 6) Wood continues to sprint in, and Babar manages to get off the mark with a single.
Azhar Ali says goodbye.
18th over: Pakistan 64-3 (Babar 0, Shakeel 6) Stokes decides to pack his fielders close around new man Saud Shakeel – but the left-hander responds well, nailing a sweep for four off his second ball. One then keeps low, too low for Foakes as well, as it runs away for four byes.
WICKET!! Shafique lbw Leach 26 (Pakistan 54-3)
Carnage! Leach has his third in six balls, getting the ball to beat Shafique’s forward press and strike the front pad. The batter doesn’t bother with a review; that looked very, very out. Leach is running through Pakistan!
17th over: Pakistan 54-2 (Shafique 26, Babar 0) After a bright start to the day, Pakistan are suddenly up against it again. Once again, Babar, their star man, has to step up.
WICKET!! Azhar b Leach 0 (Pakistan 53-2)
Here comes Azhar Ali for the final time in international cricket. He gets a few handshakes from the opposition on his way in. But… now he’s gone! The right-hander plays all around a sharp Leach delivery, trying to flick through the leg-side, and is bowled for a duck. The England players go and shake hands with him once again, and his teammates form a guard of honour as he walks off. A fantastic Test career comes to an end.
16th over: Pakistan 53-2 (Shafique 25, Babar 0)
WICKET!! Masood b Leach 24 (Pakistan 53-1)
Oh dear. Masood tries the reverse sweep but only manages to get a bottom edge as the ball rattles the stumps.
15th over: Pakistan 53-0 (Masood 24, Shafique 25) Masood pulls Wood away for a single before Shafique collects four more, picking out a gap between two fielders behind square. The two openers have been excellent so far this morning, cutting the deficit in quick time. Pakistan now lead by three.
14th over: Pakistan 48-0 (Masood 23, Shafique 21) Jack Leach is on for a twirl, replacing Root. It’s a tidy start before he goes slightly short with the final ball of the over; Shafique punches off the back foot through the covers for four.
13th over: Pakistan 43-0 (Masood 22, Shafique 17) Wood continues to fly in and send them short. But my word this pitch is dead, with barely any carry as the ball eventually finds Ben Foakes’ gloves. Shafique nails a pull from the penultimate ball of the over, the ball whacking short leg’s shoulder before falling just short of Ben Stokes at square leg. Ollie Pope, the man hit, seems like he’s OK.
12th over: Pakistan 41-0 (Shafique 15, Masood 22) Two slips in for Masood as Root continues from around the wicket. He tosses one up and Masood comes down the pitch to whack it all the way for six! The left-hander is showing his Yorkshire teammate very little respect this morning.
11th over: Pakistan 35-0 (Masood 16, Shafique 15) Mark Wood has the ball from the other end and immediately enters bouncer-mode. Shafique tucks away for a single off the third ball and Masood gets one himself with a controlled pull.
10th over: Pakistan 33-0 (Shafique 14, Masood 15) Masood pushes at the first ball of the day and gets a thickish edge that runs away for four. The next shot is a more convincing one – Root is short and Masood punches through the off side for four more. And then Root beats the bat with a sharp off-break! Masood then collects his third boundary of the over, coming down the track to drive over extra cover. A very entertaining start to the day.
Right then, let’s get going. Joe Root’s got the ball.
Azhar Ali will almost certainly walk out to bat in Test cricket for the final time today. It’s been a truly stellar career, but also a massive shame that most of it has clashed with Pakistan having to make the UAE their home. This is just his 10th Test match in Pakistan. I hope he gets a decent ovation when he makes his way out there.
Here’s a better catch-up from yesterday:
Hello, folks! Sunday saw a 23-year-old showcase his sporting prowess to the world with a truly scintillating individual performance.
Yes, that’s right, Harry Brook was at it again, hitting his third century of the series as England put up 354 to grab a 50-run first-innings lead. He’s special, this kid – and the Test numbers are quite something right now: six innings, 480 runs @ 80, SR: 92.13, 1 half-century, 3 tons.
Pakistan’s openers Abdullah Shafique and Shan Masood managed to see off nine overs before the close of play, surviving against that famed new-ball duo of, um, Jack Leach and Joe Root.
I’ll be back in a bit – as ever, send in your thoughts, queries, song requests, etc.