SOUTHAMPTON: Pakistan captain Azhar Ali led from the front with a brilliant undefeated 141, but England still enforced the follow-on at Southampton on Sunday as James Anderson was left frustratingly short of becoming the first paceman to take 600 Test wickets.
Pakistan were dismissed for 273, a huge 310 runs behind England’s imposing 583-8 declared, on the third day of the third and final Test at the Ageas Bowl.
Anderson took 5-56 in 23 overs — his 29th five-wicket haul in Tests — as the hosts, 1-0 up in the three-match contest, pressed for their first series win over Pakistan in a decade.
That left Anderson with 598 wickets but he would have had more had three catches not been dropped off the 38-year-old’s bowling with the new ball.
After England captain Joe Root had enforced the follow-on, umpires Richard Illingworth and Michael Gough decided the fading light was unsafe for Pakistan to start their second innings — with Azhar coming out to open with Shan Masood — even though the floodlights were on.
The only bowlers to have taken 600 wickets in Tests are three retired spinners — Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan (800), Australia’s Shane Warne (708) and India’s Anil Kumble (619).
Pakistan had been in dire straits at 75-5. But Azhar shared a stand of 138 with wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan (53). During his innings, Azhar become just the fifth Pakistan batsman after Younis Khan, Javed Miandad, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf to have scored 6,000 Test runs.
Azhar, working hard to avoid being adjudged lbw again, completed his 17th century in 81 Tests when he cover-drove Bess for his 15th four in 205 balls after the tea interval.
Rizwan’s fine innings ended when he was well caught on 53 down the leg side by opposite number Buttler.
The England keeper held an even better one, high one-handed diving leg-side catch to dismiss tailender Shaheen Afridi off Stuart Broad.
England, in fading light but with the floodlights on full beam, then dropped three catches to Anderson’s despair.
Rory Burns grassed a routine chance when Azhar — who struck 21 boundaries during his 272-ball innings in 406 minutes — on 116 edged a drive before fourth slip Zak Crawley floored Mohammad Abbas when the No 10 was on zero.
Broad, in response to a dropped simple chance from Abbas at mid-on, off Anderson, threw the ball in frustration at the stumps and ran out the tailender.
The run of dropped catches off Anderson’s bowling ended when he had last man Naseem Shah taken in the slips by Dom Sibley.
ENGLAND (1st Innings): 583-8 declared (Z. Crawley 267, J.C. Buttler 152, C.R. Woakes 40; Fawad Alam 2-46).
PAKISTAN (1st Innings):
Shan Masood lbw b Anderson 4
Abid Ali c Sibley b Anderson 1
Azhar Ali not out 141
Babar Azam lbw b Anderson 11
Asad Shafiq c Root b Anderson 5
Fawad Alam c Buttler b Bess 21
Mohammad Rizwan c Buttler b Woakes 53
Yasir Shah c Root b Broad 20
Shaheen Shah Afridi c Buttler b Broad 3
Mohammad Abbas run out 1
Naseem Shah c Sibley b Anderson 0
EXTRAS (B-2, LB-7, W-2, NB-2) 13
TOTAL (all out, 93 overs) 273
FALL OF WKTS: 1-6, 2-11, 3-24, 4-30, 5-75, 6-213, 7-241, 8-247, 9-261.
BOWLING: Anderson 23-3-56-5; Broad 20-5-40-2; Archer 17-3-58-0 (1w); Woakes 14-2-42-1 (2nb); Bess 18-2-68-1.