Unlike day two, when Pakistan’s bowlers dominated proceedings, day three was a lot more competitive with England hitting back with quick wickets. But, the match still ended with Pakistan having gained the slight advantage, thanks to their excellent bowling effort, which gave the visitors a sizeable first innings lead. Although Pakistan kept losing wickets at regular intervals, with Chris Woakes again striking big, 40s from Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed meant Pakistan ended the day with a lead of 281, and two second-innings wickets in hand. Their objective will undoubtedly be to cross the 300-run lead, and put England under pressure on day four.
The day began with England on 253 for 7, and the hosts hoping to get as close as possible to the Pakistan total. But, that wasn’t to be the case, as Wahab Riaz cleaned up Stuart Broad, and Yasir Shah adding another scalp to finish with six. Woakes was still at the crease when the last man walked in. But, in trying to give him the strike, last man and debutant Jake Ball was run out, leaving Woakes stranded on 35. Pakistan’s 67-run lead could yet prove decisive in a low-scoring game.
Having conceded the first innings lead, it was imperative that England fought back with the ball. And they wasted no time in putting the visitors back under pressure. Broad got the early breakthrough sending back Mohammad Hafeez for a duck. Shan Masood’s poor run continued as he became Woakes’ first victim in the second innings. The wicket lifted England, and Woakes carried on his great run when he had Azhar Ali lbw, the batsman walking back shaking his head for the second time in the match, believing he was unlucky with the marginal decision.
The most significant blow came when Moeen Ali sent back Misbah-Ul-Haq for a duck. Ali had been dominated by the Pakistan batsman in the first innings, but Misbah tried to be over-aggressive this time, stepping out early, and falling to the spinner. At 60 for 4, England were back in the game, but Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq rebuilt and added some crucial runs to the total. Younis was not in his elements, and hopped and puffed his way to 25 before also falling to Ali. The 69-run stand however ensured that Pakistan extended their lead in a significant manner.
Two knocks that could make the difference between victory and defeat for Pakistan could be those played by Shafiq and Sarfraz. Both failed to reach their respective half-centuries. But, they ensured that Pakistan did not crumble completely from a position of danger. Had they stayed together, Pakistan would definitely have ended the day as favourites. But, this hasn’t been a one-way traffic Test. As so, Woakes sent back both of them just as the visitors were inching ahead. There was another twist though as the promoted Yasir remained unbeaten on 30, hinting again that this could be his Test.
--By A Cricket Analyst