Lord’s Test: Rahat, Yasir push Pakistan closer to win


London—Three wickets from Rahat Ali before lunch and two more during the afternoon for Yasir Shah put Pakistan on course for victory in the Lord’s Test. Set 283 to win after dismissing Pakistan inside the first ten minutes of the morning session, England’s batsmen struggled to build partnerships against a constantly probing attack.
History was with the visitors: only once has a team made more in the fourth innings to win a Test at Lord’s. While Jonny Bairstow remained in the company of Chris Woakes – a man with nine first-class centuries, not to mention 11 wickets in the match – England could at least hope to induce some nerves during the evening.
This has been a gripping match, fought in excellent spirit and holding the attention of a packed crowd throughout. A sizeable contingent of Pakistan supporters cheered every wicket as their side pushed for a first Test triumph at Lord’s since Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed’s exploits in 1996.
England recovered from 47 for 3 through a partnership between James Vince and Gary Ballance that was worth 49 before the former was dismissed by Wahab Riaz, flinging his hands at a drive shortly after lunch. Wahab had begun to make the ball reverse away down the slope and a thick edge flew to Younis Khan at second slip, who this time held on to a juggling catch, having dropped a much tougher chance with Vince on 9.
Ballance, in the second innings of his comeback Test, seemed to grow in confidence, totting up runs with nudges and nurdles. He was vulnerable to Wahab’s probing outside off stump but generally played the ball softly and late, other than when slashing a four over the slips. He and Bairstow added another 39 runs in 13 overs of careful batting when Yasir, having changed to bowling from the Nursery End, struck for the first time.
The man identified as Pakistan’s likeliest matchwinner had to wait until his 13th over but, for aficionados of legspin, it was undoubtedly worth it. Ballance had just pulled a sharply turning delivery through square leg for his sixth boundary; the next ball was a little fuller, spun a little harder down the slope and it darted like a swallow past Ballance’s attempted flick to hit leg stump. If the shot was questionable, the overall effect was reminiscent Shane Warne’s dismissal of Andrew Strauss at Edgbaston in 2005.
Moeen Ali did not last long, waltzing out of his ground and aiming a heave across the line at Yasir, only for the ball to spin between bat and pad to hit the top of middle. England were still less than halfway to their target; Pakistan were now more than halfway to theirs.
England may have been primed to the threat posed by Yasir and Mohammad Amir but it was Rahat – a surprise inclusion in the XI for some – who gave Pakistan the early advantage. England lost their top three in little more than an hour of batting before Vince and Ballance fashioned a partnership to take them through to lunch.
Vince played a counterpunching innings, blocking out the chatter from the close catchers as Yasir began to wheel away, looking for the footmarks created by Pakistan’s left-arm seamers – Rahat was warned early on by the umpires for running on the pitch. Vince sliced a drive against Yasir just cleared backward point before a forceful cut in the same over took him past his previous Test best of 35.
After the third day’s play, Pakistan’s coach Mickey Arthur was hoping his side could “sneak another 19-20” more runs. They managed just a single from Amir as England took the last two wickets in 13 balls, though that was enough to push the requirement up above the 282 achieved by Michael Vaughan’s side against New Zealand in 2004. Stuart Broad picked up both, Yasir and Amir caught behind, to become the third England bowler to pass 350 Test wickets.
Adrenaline coursed through the first overs of England’s assault. Cook chopped the opening delivery for four through point as Amir and Rahat were wayward to begin with. England raced to 19 for 0 from three overs before hitting their first speed bump – Rahat found his line and found the tiniest contact with Cook’s outside edge, a kiss goodbye for the England captain who turned away ruefully as Kumar Dharmasena’s finger went up.
Joe Root also stroked his first ball to the boundary and Alex Hales had three fours to his name when he attempted to force a cut against Rahat. A thick top edge flew quickly to Mohammad Hafeez’s left at first slip, where he took a much harder catch than the one he dropped in England’s first innings.
Younis came close to pulling off a brilliant take to remove Vince, also off Rahat, the 38-year-old scooping the ball up inches above the turf diving to his right at second slip but unable to clasp the chance at the second attempt. Rahat bagged and tagged his third soon after, though, a misbegotten pull from Root sending a top edge out to the grateful Yasir, jogging to his right to take the catch some 20 yards in from the boundary at deep square leg.

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