James Anderson on the brink of 600 Test wickets after Azhar Ali’s unbeaten century frustrates bowlers

James Anderson on the brink of 600 Test wickets after Azhar Ali’s unbeaten century frustrates bowlers

James Anderson on the brink of 600 Test wickets after Azhar Ali's unbeaten century frustrates bowlers

England vs Pakistan third Test Azhar Ali Century Frustrates England On Day 3

James Anderson on the brink of 600 Test wickets after Azhar Ali's unbeaten century frustrates bowlers

Match Summary

England v Pakistan
Pakistan trail England by 310 runs with 10 wickets remaining

Umpires:Richard Illingworth / Michael Gough
Toss:England won the toss and elected to bat.

Pakistan trail England by 310 runs with 10 wickets remaining — Close of play

England First Innings:
583 for 8 declared (154.4 overs)
Crawley 267, Buttler 152

Pakistan First Innings:
273 all out (93.0 overs)
Ali 141*

Anderson (23-3-56-5)

James Anderson spent an age choosing the ball for Pakistan’s second innings carefully sorting through a box of shiny new Dukes before settling on one that will probably end up displayed in a glass case in the Lord’s museum.

Anderson is on 598 wickets, two short of becoming the first quick bowler to take 600 in Test cricket. It is a milestone that has become a millstone this summer, clearly weighing on his mind.

His confidence should be high after his five for 56 ensured Pakistan follow on 310 runs behind, despite Azhar Ali’s outstanding unbeaten 141.

This is a new ball pitch and Anderson struck four times in Pakistan’s first innings before the ball was 13 overs old. With heavy clouds, and rain of course, forecast for Monday’s conditions should be ideal for swing and seam.

But Anderson is an old pro and a pessimist so he will be nervously looking at the forecast and fearing the worst. He will also be muttering about a bizarre, and slapstick, final 15 minutes of play last night that saw three catches go down off his bowling.

Zak Crawley was the chief culprit. He has had an incredible Test match but even after scoring 267 it is a good idea to steer clear of Anderson when you have dropped an absolute sitter off him at slip two balls after another chance had just gone down.

Anderson was bent double with his head in his hands when Crawley dropped a straightforward edge of Mohammad Abbas for what would have been his 598th wicket.

 

England’s James Anderson reacts after a chance to catch was dropped in the field off his bowling on the third day of the third Test cricket match between England and Pakistan at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, southern England on August 23, 2020.
James Anderson experienced a challenging final session of the day.

In many ways it should have been Anderson’s 599th for Rory Burns had missed a slightly harder catch two balls earlier off Azhar. Anderson took that one in his stride but not the miss by Crawley. He had a disdainful look only an old bowler can give a young batsman who has not had to bend his back for 18 years.

The third drop had an element of high comedy that even made Anderson crack a half smile.

Azhar drove tiredly on 130 to Broad at mid on where Anderson’s great partner dropped another easy catch. But in the mayhem Abbas tried to steal a single and was run out by a direct hit from Broad.

 

Anderson had a rueful look when Dom Sibley held on to an edge off Naseem Shah two overs later that ended the innings. He led the team off, a wise way of staying out of his way by those with butterfingers, and moments later was with the fourth umpire rummaging through the new balls like an expert jeweller sorting through diamonds looking for duds.

Anderson will have worries about the slip cordon hanging on to edges but not Jos Buttler, who has enjoyed a fine game with the gloves.

Three excellent catches prove how success in one discipline breeds confidence in another for allrounders. He was a broken man after missing three chances off Dom Bess in the first Test.

But since then he has ironed out a technical flaw in his batting and subsequently mastered a run chase and scored his second Test century. Life is better, he is certain of his place and the fumbles behind the stumps are gone.

Buttler has worked hard since arriving in Southampton on his keeping with coach Bruce French. They have used the Merlyn spin bowling machine to help his reactions standing up and he took a sharp chance off Bess that was rising high to his left off Fawad Alam, similar to one he missed in Manchester.

Azhar’s form has been patchy for two years and as captain averaged 26 with one hundred going into this match. His tactics as England stole the first Test in Manchester were unimaginative and timid and scores of 0, 18 and 20 in the series put him under real pressure to keep his job.

So this was an important innings that restored pride for him and his team. In doing so he became the fifth Pakistan batsman to score 6,000 Test runs. This was his 17th Test hundred and it was a fine one too.

James Anderson on the brink of 600 Test wickets after Azhar Ali's unbeaten century frustrates bowlers

Pakistan’s captain Azhar Ali raises his bat and helmet to celebrate scoring a century during the third day of the third cricket Test match between England and Pakistan, at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, England, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020.
Azhar Ali finished the innings on 141 unbeaten.
He survived three England reviews before he had reached 20. One on Saturday night off Archer, and one on Sunday morning a wasted by Broad, who talked Root into having a look at an lbw that always looked to be going down the leg side. A final one was justified when an absolute snorter from Jofra Archer whistled past Azhar’s nose but did not flick the glove. Umpire Richard Illingworth made a superb call, judging correctly the ball had flicked Azhar’s shoulder.

Azhar found support from Mohammad Rizwan, a gutsy, difficult batsmen to dislodge who made a second successive fifty. His 138 run stand in 38.5 overs made the most of a softened ball and little lateral movement. Archer banged it in, responding with two quick overs in excess of 90mph and hit Rizwan on the head.

Azhar expanded his game taking 113 balls to move into the 30s but once he clicked he was away, his next 74 came off just 92. He brought up his century with his 15th four off 205 balls.

With the innings drifting and England looking flat they needed a breakthrough. Chris Woakes struck lucky, Rizwan flicking at a leg side ball that Buttler took diving wide to his left.

It opened up the tail with the second new ball five overs away. The harder ball did the rest, Pakistan slumping from 236 for six to 273 all out as England combined brilliance with farce. Buttler plucked a superb leg side catch off Shaheen Afridi, looking down at the ball in his gloves with surprise, before the three drops off Anderson.

His mood eased when he dismissed last man Naseem setting up Monday to be a day Anderson might never forget.