England eye top spot and series win after Edgbaston fightback glory

August 8, 2016

England produced a superb fightback to win the third Test at Edgbaston against Pakistan - and are now eyeing the world number one spot in the Test rankings.

Having been bowled out for 297 on the opening day after being sent into bat, England appeared to be staring down the barrel when the tourists reached 257-2 by the final ball of the second day.

However, that delivery - when James Anderson had Azhar Ali caught behind for 139 - sparked a superb comeback as England dominated from there on.

Pakistan lost seven wickets for 143 on the third day as England's bowlers finally made inroads on a flat pitch, and if the visitors' lead of 103 seemed daunting, Alastair Cook and Alex Hales made light of it as they produced their first century opening partnership together, both making half centuries as the home side moved to 120-0 by the end of day three.

Even so, England had only won a Test after conceding a first-innings deficit of more than 100 five times, and nobody had ever done so at Edgbaston. The challenge ahead remained a daunting one, and when both Cook and Hales fell early on day four, Pakistan were in the box seat.

However, despite the early loss of both openers, England took control on day four. Having first ground their way slowly into the lead, a rapid century stand by Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali took England to 414-5 by the end of day four. Three overs of slogging enabling them to declare early on the final day and leave Pakistan 343 to win, or 84 overs to bat out for a draw.

Mohammed Hafeez was soon out playing a wild pull shot, but Sami Aslam settled in to play a fine knock as he made his second half century of the match, showing the skills and temperament at the age of just 20 to suggest Pakistan have a new star.

The tourists were just one down at lunch with a draw looking probable, but collapsed in the afternoon. At one stage four wickets fell for one run as England's seamers found reverse swing, and a last wicket partnership between Sohail Khan and Rahat Ali was ended when the former drilled a catch straight back at Moeen. Pakistan were all out for 201 and England had won a superb comeback victory by 141 runs.

It was the victory of champions and fans booking corporate hospitality for the final Test at the Kia Oval could be about to witness England going to number one in the Test rankings. A 3-1 series win would put England top unless India win both remaining Tests in the West Indies.

Australia remain ahead of the pack for now, but their heavy defeat in the second Test in Sri Lanka at Galle means they now need to win the final Test and hope for other results to go their way. If they don't win in Colombo and India cannot beat the West Indies by more than 2-0 in the Caribbean, a draw would be enough for England at the Kia Oval. Such results in the West Indies and Sri Lanka would also open the door for Pakistan to go top, were they to win at the Kia Oval.

By Keith Prowse

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