England strike on stroke of lunch as Ollie Robinson claims big wicket of Azhar Ali… as Pakistan go into the break 117-3 as they look to avoid a 3-0 whitewash in Karachi
- Azhar Ali was on the brink of a farewell 50 piece in what is his final Test
- Ollie Robinson though claimed a big wicket of Ali on the stroke of lunch
- Pakistan are 117-3 as they look to avoid an unprecedented 3-0 sweep in Karachi
Ollie Robinson took the big wicket of Azhar Ali on the stroke of lunch as England went in search of an unprecedented 3-0 whitewash in Karachi.
Pakistan had recovered to 117 for two, with Azhar – playing his 97th and final Test – on the brink of a farewell fifty. But Robinson dug one in down the leg side and Azhar got a glove through to a tumbling Ben Foakes.
The umpires conferred, and gave a soft signal of not out – but it was clear to their TV colleague Marais Erasmus that the ball had entered Foakes’s gloves cleanly, and Azhar was on his way for 45, triggering lunch.
Ben Stokes congratulates Ollie Robinson after the wicket of Azhar Ali just before lunch
Pakistan recovered to 117 for two before Robinson claimed an important wicket in Karachi
Until his demise, Pakistan made steady progress on the first day of the third and final Test, ensuring that – for the first time in the series – the lunch-time score didn’t resemble a total you might more likely expect at tea.
At Rawalpindi and Multan, England had reached 174 without loss and 180 for five after just one session. Here, in front of a disappointingly thin crowd, Pakistan were less gung-ho, though there were a few freebies as Leicestershire’s teenage leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed got through five expensive overs on a surface offering very little to anyone.
At the break, Babar Azam, who had won a good toss, was unbeaten on 30 from just 31 balls.
In fairness to Pakistan, they batted with more enterprise than at any time in the series as they seek to avoid their first 3-0 clean sweep at home.
Pakistan’s batting has been better than at any point in the series as they look to avoid a sweep
The early impetus came from Shan Masood, playing his first Test of the series and no doubt thrilled that England had rested Jimmy Anderson, who has been all over him in the past.
Masood used his feet repeatedly to Jack Leach, the first England spinner to open the bowling in the first innings of a Test since Jack White, a fellow Somerset slow left-armer, 101 years ago.
Leach did strike back, removing Abdullah Shafique lbw in the game’s sixth over with a ball that umpire Joel Wilson agreed would have hit leg stump.
And he then played his part in the field, nicely judging a catch at fine leg after Masood failed to control a paddle-pull off Mark Wood, and departed for 30.
That left Pakistan 46 for two, and in slight danger of squandering the advantage of batting first. But Robinson had left the field because of an upset stomach after bowling three overs, and Azhar and Babar settled in.
Jack Leach (third from left) celebrates after taking the wicket of Abdullah Shafique
Ahmed entered the attack after 16 overs, but Azhar worked his second ball through midwicket for two, then pulled his third for four. The pattern was set: once or twice an over, Ahmed would drop a fraction short, and this experienced Pakistani pair would be all over him. At lunch, he had figures of 5-0-37-0.
Leach, meanwhile, was replaced with an analysis of 11-1-51-1 – both sets of figures demonstrating the unyielding nature of the pitch.
But Robinson returned for a couple of pre-lunch overs, and with the eighth ball of his spell he strangled Azhar – a dismissal that just about gave England the session’s bragging rights.