Rawalpindi: England’s daring declaration set up the potential for a thrilling final day of the first Test as Pakistan were 80-2 at stumps on Day 4 and needed 263 more runs to win, here on Sunday.
England dangled the carrot and set Pakistan 343 runs to win on a very flat deck, having scored 264 runs in just 35.5 overs in their second innings at a run rate of more than 7.5.
The visitors had stressed their desire to entertain and force a result before the start of the series and this was in evidence in the second session on day four. England scored as quickly as possible to give themselves the best chance to secure what would be only a third Test victory in Pakistan.
The declaration slightly reduced the potential for a draw on the run-heavy pitch, with Ben Stokes continuing to be a bold captain in his approach to batting, fielding and decision-making.
The visitors’ attacking form carried on into the field, where they persevered with a short-ball approach, and claimed two wickets for their efforts, despite Stokes being hit for successive fours in his first deliveries of the innings.
England made two early inroads, with Abdullah Shafique (6) and Babar Azam (4) falling victim to the short ball, although the home side continued to score quickly.
Azhar Ali was then forced to return to the dressing room after retiring hurt following a blow to the top of his right index finger, and it remains to be seen whether the batter will recover in time to bat on the final day.
Stokes’ side almost had a third wicket in one of the final overs of the day, but Saud Shakeel was dropped by Keaton Jennings at short-leg when he was on 22, and he finished Day Four on 24 not out, well supported by Imam-ul-Haq who followed up a first-innings century with an unbeaten 43.
England’s unconventional batting approach was epitomised by Joe Root, who briefly switched to batting left-handed for two balls during his innings in an attempt to disrupt the bowler — but was almost caught at conventional point-turned-square-leg before reverting to his usual stance.
Brook then brought up his second half-century of the game, and briefly threatened to break Gilbert Jessop’s 120-year-old record for the fastest-ever century — 76 balls — by an England player in Test matches. He was on 87 from 65 when he was bowled trying to score yet another boundary by Naseem Shah, who was the pick of the Pakistan bowling attack.
Zak Crawley also scored his second half-century of the match, and Will Jacks added a useful quickfire 24 from 12 deliveries before being caught at mid-off trying to score a third successive six.
Earlier, in the morning session, debutant Jacks claimed a maiden Test five-for, finishing with six wickets for 161, becoming the first England spin bowler to take a five-for in the first innings of his debut since Peter Such in 1993.
Pakistan started the day on 499/7 and were also free-scoring but England took the remaining three wickets in the first hour-and-a-half of play for 80 runs.
Brief scores: England 657 & 264/7 decl. in 35.5 overs (Harry Brook 87, Joe Root 73; Mohammad Ali 2-64) lead Pakistan 579 & 80/2 in 20 overs (Imam-ul-Haq 43 not out; Ollie Robinson 1-22) by 263 runs.