England openers Alastair Cook and Alex Hales shared an unbroken stand of 120 to leave the third Test against Pakistan delicately poised after three days at Edgbaston.
Captain Cook made 64 not out and Hales an undefeated 50 to give the home side a lead of 17.
England earlier fought back well with the ball, taking five wickets for 42 runs to bowl Pakistan out for 400.
Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes each took three, while Misbah-ul-Haq made 56.
It was the wicket of Misbah, bowled by James Anderson, that began the England recovery, one desperately needed after Pakistan had dominated day two to begin Friday on 257-3.
There was a wobble when Anderson was ordered from the attack controversially, an umpiring decision that helped Sarfraz Ahmed (46 not out) shepherd the tail to add 32 for the final two wickets.
But England’s openers took advantage of an increasingly benign surface and a lack of swing or turn to give the hosts the upper hand.
England battling history
For all of the good work done on day three, England must still defy history if they are to go 2-1 up with one match to play in the four-Test series.
In all of the previous 2,211 Tests, teams giving away a first-innings lead of at least 100 lost 69% of matches and won only 3%.
Indeed, no side has won a Test at Edgbaston having batted first and given away a lead of more than 69.
But with the surface now looking ideal for batting, England have the opportunity to set the tourists a sizeable total and take advantage of any potential deterioration on the final day.
Former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott told BBC Test Match Special: “It’s been an absolutely splendid day’s cricket – cut and thrust. Anybody who hasn’t got a ticket for Saturday, go and get one.”
Cook and Hales lay the platform…
Even after that Pakistan lower-order subsidence, the tourists still had an opportunity to take firm control of the Test by making inroads into England’s flaky top order.
That they did not was down to England’s discipline and their own inability to either penetrate or build pressure.
Cook worked off his pads and played trademark cut shots on the way to a 51st Test half-century. Scoring freely, this was his sixth-fastest Test fifty, three of that half-dozen having come in this series.
Hales, who began in more circumspect fashion than Cook, had the one moment of fortune when a top edge off Mohammad Amir flew over the slips before he began to find the off-side boundary.
…after bowlers drag it back
That England’s deficit was manageable was a result of a bowling performance much improved on the second day.
The bulk of the damage was done in the hour after lunch, at a time when the obdurate Misbah looked set to make light of the morning losses of Younus Khan and Asad Shafiq.
In a chaotic hour, Anderson had Misbah play on to his stumps, Yasir Shah was run out by Woakes’ throw from long leg and Amir was lbw to Woakes.
Then Anderson, warned twice on Thursday, was barred from bowling for more, and seemingly minor, incursions on to the middle of the pitch.
There is an area – sometimes referred to as the ‘danger zone’ – on which bowlers cannot run and which is protected by the umpires to prevent unnecessary deterioration of the surface that may unfairly aid bowlers later in the match.
Without the threat posed by Anderson’s swing, the busy and unorthodox Sarfraz elongated the innings with the help of Sohail Khan and Rahat Ali, who were both eventually removed by Broad.
Like Broad, Steven Finn posed more danger than on day two, but still went wicketless, while spinner Moeen Ali was trusted to bowl only 17 of the 136 overs.
‘England have a sniff of victory’ – what they said
Geoffrey Boycott on TMS: “Can England bat well? Can they get in a position where they declare? England have a sniff of victory. But don’t put too much on it.
“It’s a good batting pitch and there’s no spin for the wrist spinner. But when you have to chase 220-250, people make a hash of those chases.”
England seamer Chris Woakes: “Tomorrow morning is crucial again. We need guys to go on and get big scores. But we will obviously take that from where we were this morning.”
Stats of the day
- Pakistan have taken a lead of 100 or more in nine previous Tests in England; their only defeat came in the infamous forfeited Oval Test of 2006.
- Misbah-ul-Haq has made 14 Test scores of 50 or more since turning 40; only Jack Hobbs (19) and Patsy Hendren (15) have made more.
- Steven Finn has now gone 61.5 overs without taking a Test wicket.
- Alastair Cook and Alex Hales’ stand was England’s first century opening partnership since Cook and Moeen Ali’s against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi last October; the best in 23 innings since then had been 68.
- Alastair Cook’s strike-rate in this series is 71; his career strike-rate is 49.
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