England’s chance of a series-clinching victory in the third Test suffered a setback on day three as Pakistan skipper Azhar Ali produced a brilliant innings to give his side hope of avoiding defeat (England 20/21, Pakistan 150/1, draw 5/6 – Match Betting).
Azhar’s form with the bat this series has been called into question but he demonstrated his class with a fantastic knock of 141 not out on a friendly Ageas Bowl wicket.
Pakistan would eventually be dismissed for 273, trailing England by 310 runs with captain Joe Root deciding to enforce the follow on, only for bad light to bring a close to play before a ball had been bowled in the second innings.
Having looked in complete control of the Test on Sunday morning, England now have their work cut out to beat Pakistan and the weather with rain forecast over the next two days if they are to seal a 2-0 series victory.
The tourists started the day staring down the barrel of a huge defeat, resuming on 24-3 and carried on from where they left off on Saturday initially as James Anderson took the wicket of Asad Shafiq (5).
Azhar and Fawad Alam then steadied the ship for Pakistan before spinner Dom Bess had Alam caught behind during the afternoon session.
Azhar continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over and he was joined by a more capable partner in Mohammad Rizwan, the duo putting on a partnership of 138 for the sixth wicket.
During their time together at the crease, Azhar would bring up his 17th Test century, while Rizwan passed 50 before the wicketkeeper would knick one through to Jos Buttler from a Chris Woakes delivery.
Yasir Shah then added a rapid 20 before Shaheen Afridi (3), Mohammad Abbas (1) and Naseem Shah (0) all came and went, the latter helping Anderson – who saw three catches go down off his bowling – complete another five-fer as he finished the innings with figures of 5-56.
That left Anderson on 598 career wickets but he didn’t get a chance to reach the 600-mark after England enforced the follow-on, bad light bringing a halt to play.