Birmingham: England captain Alastair Cook and Alex Hales’s first century stand as an opening pair left the third Test against Pakistan at Edgbaston intriguingly poised come the close of Friday’s third day.
At stumps, England were 120 without loss in their second innings, a lead of 17 runs, after Cook and Hales had overcome a deficit of 103 runs.
Left-hander Cook was 64 not out and Hales 50 not out, with two days left in the match.
It was the first time in 18 innings as a Test opening pair the duo had posted a century partnership.
England were more than 100 runs behind on first innings after over 10 hours in the field.
Yet Hales was soon into his stride with a cover-driven four off left-arm quick Mohammad Amir.
Meanwhile Cook took advantage of width from Sohail Khan with two square-cut boundaries in three balls.
Cook completed a brisk fifty in 67 balls when Rahat Ali’s misfield at mid-on led to the fifth four of the innings.
Hales took England into the lead with an elegant back-foot forcing shot through the covers off Sohail, who had marked his return to Test cricket by taking five for 96 in the hosts’ first innings.
And the last delivery of the day saw Hales complete a 116-ball fifty with a single off the tiring Sohail.
“Tomorrow morning is crucial again, especially being just 17 runs ahead,” all-rounder Chris Woakes, who led England’s attack with three for 79 on his Warwickshire home ground, told Sky Sports.
“We need the openers to get scores and the rest of the batsmen to get a decent lead.”
Meanwhile Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur was frustrated at seeing a battling display with the bat undermined by wayward new-ball bowling.
“I was just really disappointed,” Arthur told reporters.
“Everything we’ve spoken about, everything we’ve done — we talk about lengths all the time, we talk about (bowling) one side of the wicket, we talk about bowling plans and controlling the (run) rate — we didn’t do one of those in the last session.”
Pakistan were bowled out for 400 in reply to England’s first innings 297 on the stroke of tea.
After Azhar Ali, whose 139 was his first Test century outside of Asia, and recalled 20-year-old opener Sami Aslam (82) put on 181 for the second wicket Thursday, Pakistan saw skipper Misbah-ul-Haq (56) and wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed (46 not out) frustrate England on Friday.
Pakistan resumed on 257 for three after Azhar had been dismissed off the last ball of Thursday’s play.
Younis Khan (21 not out) was joined in the middle by fellow veteran Misbah.
Woakes, who had dismissed Azhar, struck again when he had Younis caught behind for 31 glancing down the legside.
It took the patient Misbah 40 balls to score his first boundary Friday.
But he broke the drought with two boundaries in three balls off Broad, courtesy of a pair of well-struck drives, one through the covers and the other down the ground.
Broad though found his range when a full-length delivery smashed into Asad Shafiq’s off stump for an 18-ball nought to leave Pakistan 296 for five, still one run behind.
– Expensive Ali -Pakistan’s batsmen have found Moeen Ali to their liking this series and Misbah reverse-swept him for four when the off-spinner came on before lunch.
Wicket-keeper Ahmed followed up with two swept fours in as many balls off Ali, whose 17 wicketless overs cost 79 runs.
After lunch, Misbah — who scored a century during Pakistan’s 75-run win in the first Test at Lord’s — posted his third fifty this series when he drove James Anderson for a sixth four in 93 balls.
But on 56 he was bowled by fast-medium bowler Anderson, England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker, to end a stand of 62 with Ahmed.
The first ball of Anderson’s 30th over saw him barred from bowling in the rest of the innings after receiving a third and final official reprimand for running on the pitch.
Pakistan were then 368 for eight.
After Pakistan’s tenth-wicket pair had extended the lead beyond 100, last man Rahat nicked Broad to Joe Root in the slips.