England v Pakistan: Azhar Ali & Sami Aslam shine at Edgbaston

By Stephan ShemiltBBC Sport
Third Test, Edgbaston, day two
England 297: Ballance 70, Moeen 63, Cook 45; Sohail 5-96
Pakistan 257-3: Azhar 139, Aslam 82
Pakistan trail by 40 runs

England were made to toil by a century from Azhar Ali as Pakistan dominated day two of the third Test at Edgbaston.

Azhar, dropped twice, made 139 before being caught at first slip off Chris Woakes to the final ball of the day.

He shared a second-wicket stand of 181 with recalled opener Sami Aslam, who was run out by James Vince for 82.

Pakistan's success looked unlikely when Mohammad Hafeez fell to James Anderson in the first over, but they closed on 257-3, only 40 behind.

This was a chastening day for England - one which put their score of 297 into some context - but the late removal of Azhar provided a cause for optimism for day three.

While the hosts now must take wickets early on Friday, Pakistan have the opportunity to build a big first-innings lead, one which could give them control of this Test and the four-match series, currently level at 1-1.

All for Azhar

England may have hoped to run through the Pakistan top order after Hafeez tamely lobbed an Anderson long hop to point, only for Azhar and Aslam to show that the hosts' first-day batting effort was substandard.

Azhar had managed only 30 runs in four previous innings in this series but, after starting patiently, played cut and drives - 66 of his runs came in the arc between backward point and extra cover.

He made the most of two bits of fortune, on 38 and 69. Joe Root dropped an edge off Anderson at second slip in the first over after lunch, while Moeen Ali failed to hang on to a return catch that was firmly drilled back.

Joe Root drops Azhar Ali at second slip

Azhar reached his 10th Test century with an awkward deflection of Stuart Broad and celebrated with the press-ups that have become Pakistan's trademark on this tour.

A blemish was the call that resulted in the run-out of Aslam, but after that he shared 76 with the jumpy Younus Khan.

Still, he fell one delivery short of making it to the close, tiredly fencing a short ball from Woakes into the hands of England captain Alastair Cook.

Azhar Ali wagon wheel
Azhar Ali scored the majority of his fours (the yellow lines) between backward point and extra cover

Aslam arrives

Left-hander Aslam, a replacement for Shan Masood, was one of two players brought in by Pakistan for this match and, like pace bowler Sohail Khan on day one, vindicated his selection.

The 20-year-old, playing the third Test of his career and first first-class match of the year, blunted the England attack by leaving impeccably, offering a stroke only when absolutely necessary.

When he did score, he guided the ball to third man, worked off his pads, or busily looked for singles on the off side.

Indeed, he and Azhar ran so well it was ironic that the end came via a run-out, Azhar calling for a single that was never on and Vince's direct hit from cover beating Aslam to the striker's end.

England below par with the ball

As well as Pakistan batted, England were below their best with the ball and in the field.

On a true surface offering less lateral movement than day one, the ball swung throughout but England - with the possible exception of Anderson - were often too short.

With the attack lacking bite, drops and overthrows crept into the fielding. There was little imagination, poor body language and high levels of frustration - Anderson, twice warned for running on the pitch - was frequently seen to be berating the umpires.

The pace bowlers at least kept scoring in check, which cannot be said for Moeen. At one point the off-spinner was conceding more than six an over and was taken for a straight maximum by each of Aslam and Azhar.

With a second new ball that is only 10 overs old, England must make inroads early on day three or face being batted out of the Test.

'England are missing a wheel' - what they said

Former England captain Michael Vaughan: "England miss Ben Stokes hugely. It's almost like they've lost a wheel off the car and they can only move in the same direction or at the same speed. On a day like this it's been crying out for someone to do something different - and he does that."

Former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott: "England can get back in but they've got to get wickets with the new ball. If you want to win a Test match, catches can really, really hurt you."

England's James Anderson on being warned twice for running on the middle of the pitch: "I've tried being tight with my follow-throughs. I've apologised for my behaviour to the umpire. I was probably a bit out of order. It can get a bit frustrating as I'm competitive."

Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali: "It's still a very strong position. We have a lot of batting to come but England will come hard tomorrow. We have to bat last."

England v Pakistan: Azhar Ali frustrated by last ball dismissal

Stats of the day

  • The wicket of Mohammad Hafeez saw Pakistan become the seventh Test side James Anderson has taken 50 wickets against; India's Anil Kumble did so against seven countries and Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan got at least 50 against nine
  • Sami Aslam and Azhar Ali's stand of 181 is only the second time that Pakistan have added 150 for the second wicket in a Test match in England
  • The period between lunch and tea was the first session of the series to pass without a wicket falling
  • Azhar Ali passed 50 for the first time in eight Test innings. His previous seven innings brought just 78 runs
  • He is the first Pakistan number three to make a Test century outside Asia since 2006