Pakistan have inched one step closer to a draw after a combination of rain and bad light at Southampton interrupted yet another day of Test cricket on Monday (24th August). Pakistan are still 210 runs behind, following on, with eight wickets in hand. It is once again Pakistan captain Azhar Ali, who has shown tremendous application and has continued from where he left off in the first innings. Credit also must be given to Abid Ali, who also dug deep for his 162-ball 42 before he was trapped in front by James Anderson, who is currently on 599 Test wickets.
Pakistan made a positive start to the day and were looking to rotate strike and play their shots at every opportunity. The had a mountain to climb and were in need of a solid opening partnership, which has not happened in this series so far. It was up to Abid and Shan Masood to ensure that they improved that record further for them to have a chance to save the match. Masood had already survived an early chance, when Jos Buttler put a catch down off Anderson.
Rain stopped play shortly afterwards, but Pakistan were unscathed having put up 41 for no loss. The players took an early lunch. The rain gathered momentum and as a result the start of the second session was delayed as well.
There was some good news as the rain had stopped, but the bad news was that play was further delayed due to a wet outfield, and as a result play began only after tea. The wait continued. After a long delay, it was Stuart Broad who made the much-needed breakthrough. He got the better of Masood, who was rapped on the pads trying to leave the ball alone. The 49-run stand between Masood and Abid was their second-best opening partnership in nine innings since they put on 278 against Sri Lanka in Karachi last year.
Abid and Azhar Ali then stuck in after that. They did not score swiftly, but managed to block out deliveries without much trouble. Joe Root tried every possible combination including bringing on offspinner Dom Bess so that he could exploit the rough patches outside off, but that too did not work.
Pakistan were going at under two an over and there was no real intent of scoring. One could understand especially with the situation they were in, but at the same time, the England bowlers too weren't getting much purchase from the slow wicket. Just when the partnership was looking unbreakable, Anderson trapped Abid in front for 42 to move just a wicket away from 600 scalps. Also, that wicket was Anderson's first wicket in the second innings of a Test this summer.
Soon after that, bad light stopped play and stumps were called. Azhar has continued fighting well and has been a thorn in England's flesh in this match and will hope to continue his good work if and when play resumes on day five.
The forecast once again is not great and we might once again have a rain-interrupted day as a result.
England: 583 for 8 decl (Zak Crawley 267, Jos Buttler 152; Fawad Alam 2 for 46) lead Pakistan 273 (Azhar Ali 141*, Mohammad Rizwan 53; James Anderson 5 for 56) & 100 for 2 (F/O) (Abid Ali 42, Azhar Ali 29*; James Anderson 1 for 18) by 210 runs