England will take a chance on losing in order to win Test matches, as Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes often emphasized. This was confirmed in Rawalpindi. With around 100 overs remaining in the match, provided the light was favorable, the visitors made a valiant declaration of their second innings, requesting Pakistan to chase 342 for victory.
Pakistan had reduced their target by 80 runs at the end of another shortened final session, but they had also lost two of their first-innings century players, Abdullah Shafique and Babar Azam, and veteran batter Azhar Ali had to retire hurt after suffering a finger injury.
Fortunately for the hosts, Imam-ul-Haq, their second first-innings centurion, escaped England’s bouncer strategy and advanced to 43 while adding 55 runs with Saud Shakeel for the third wicket. Before the game was again called off due to poor lighting, Pakistan faced a difficult 20-over phase.
Before Stokes and McCullum held out the promise of the fourth inning, they spent the majority of the day chasing leather. Given that the pitch had remained benign well into the fourth day, chasing at a rate greater than three runs per over wasn’t going to be challenging. However, it was England’s best opportunity to make their overly enthusiastic opponents make mistakes.
Stokes also broke with tradition to start the last session. James Anderson, the most effective fast bowler in test cricket, was not given the new ball; instead, Ollie Robinson and Stokes decided to test out spots halfway down from the hitters. The bouncer ruse succeeded. Shafique botched a pull, and Harry Brook grabbed him at deep square leg.
The older hitter was forced to retire wounded when Ollie Robinson maneuvered a ball awkwardly over Azhar Ali and into his fingers. Babar entered at Number 4. After slapping one short ball over the off-side for four, he was confused when facing a short ball from Stokes and inside-edged the ball to the goalkeeper.
Pakistan was shaky at 25/2. But Imam and Shakeel were able to get themselves out of a pickle. It was advantageous that Stokes’ ring of aggressive fielders provided quick possibilities for boundaries. For instance, Jack Leach bowled a couple of catching mid-wickets, a slip, a forward short leg, and a stupid point when he first entered the attack.
Shakeel could then easily chip the ball into midfield for a pair of goals as a result. There was one anxious moment for Pakistan when a Shakeel clip went directly to Keaton Jennings at short leg, but the reflex catch didn’t’stick’ and Pakistan could enter the final day with no further damage and still have a chance to win.
They are in an interesting position given that they gave up 657 runs in the first innings and then another 264 runs in less than 36 overs on the fourth day. The English batsmen were not in the mood to let the game be stalemated when it was their turn to bat. Harry Brook, Joe Root, and Zak Crawley all reached fifty faster than a run-a-ball.