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England’s push for victory and James Anderson’s quest for a 600th Test wicket were obstructed by the weather and Pakistan’s stubborn resistance on day four of the final Test at the Ageas Bowl.
Following-on, the tourists reached 100-2, still 210 behind, but with the opportunity to save the match if they can bat out the final day.
They could be aided by the rain that is forecast for Tuesday after more than three hours were lost on Monday afternoon and bad light forced an early close.
In the 56 overs that were possible, Stuart Broad had Shan Masood lbw and Anderson removed Abid Ali in similar fashion to move to 599 wickets.
Anderson’s quest to reach 600 was again hampered by a dropped catch – wicketkeeper Jos Buttler missed Masood, the fourth chance the pace bowler has seen go down in the match.
Pakistan captain Azhar Ali remains on 29 not out, with Babar Azam unbeaten on four. Azhar had come out to open on Sunday evening but, because the innings did not begin before the players were taken off for bad light, the Laws permitted the skipper to return to his usual position of number three.
England’s frustrating day
England, already 1-0 up, will win the series, but their chances of taking it 2-0 were hit by the elements, a flat pitch and Pakistan’s admirable determination.
The Southampton weather ruined the drawn second Test and it could yet have the decisive say in this match after the interruptions suffered on Monday and the threat of more rain on Tuesday. When play occurred, Pakistan reprised the fight they showed on Sunday, when they battled to 273 all out in their first innings. Azhar, so impressive for 141 not out on day three, was again at the forefront of the resistance, joined by Abid, who made a watchful 42. England continually posed questions, at one stage employing Broad to dish out a barrage of bouncers with a packed leg-side field.
There was also the sight of 44-year-old fielding coach Paul Collingwood, who retired from Test cricket in 2011, in his whites and ready to field when a number of England players were forced off. Ollie Pope is set for a scan on the same left shoulder he dislocated last year after he injured it making a diving stop on the boundary.
Anderson denied by bad light and dropped catches
The sub-plot to this match has been Anderson’s bid to become the first pace bowler to reach 600 Test wickets.
He would be there already had it not been for the mistakes of his team-mates. After three went down on Sunday evening, Buttler’s regulation miss of Masood meant Anderson had suffered four drops in the space of 37 deliveries. Still, there seemed the ideal opportunity to reach the milestone when he returned late in the day and persuaded Abid to play across the line to one that came back. The batsman’s review showed the ball to be just clipping the leg stump.
However, the fading light meant Anderson was in a tense race against time, and he sent down just seven more deliveries before the umpires instructed England they could only bowl spin. Soon after, it was decided it was too dark even for the off-breaks of Dom Bess and Joe Root.
The coronavirus pandemic means it is unclear when England’s next Test will be. At 38 years old, Anderson will dearly hope the weather does not prevent him from bowling on Tuesday.
Will Jimmy ever reach 600 if the rain ruins day five?
Former England batter Mark Ramprakash on Test Match Special: “We are in the middle of a pandemic. Will England tour this winter? Will Jimmy Anderson be asked to play?
“There’s a lot conversation about ‘well what’s the point of using Jimmy Anderson on flat, unresponsive wickets in the UAE (against India) and Sri Lanka’.
“Jimmy’s bowling average in the last four years has been getting better and better. The fact is, however, Father Time waits for nobody.
“Who knows when England’s next Test match will be, hopefully they can get cricket in this winter but it may be next summer. “Then you really start to ask yourself, how are we going to manage Jimmy’s move away from the game?
“It’s got to happen sooner or later. I would hate for it to be unsatisfactory for someone who has been such a great servant. There needs to be a management of that situation.
“The selectors will be very happy if he can get that last wicket tomorrow.”