Right, that’s all from here. Tomorrow is going to be a belter (or England get too many and Pakistan use the Edgbaston road well). I’ll be back with you in the morning. Get some sleep – day five brings promise.
“We did so well till tea,” says Mushtaq Ahmed. That just about sums it up. “We were one wicket away from the game.” He reveals that Mickey Arthur went hard at his players last night, preaching patience, which is why they bowling “holding” areas this morning. They did so, according to Mushy, because there was no reverse swing about. “This is a learning curve for our bowlers.”
And so begins an evening of declaration speculation. “We’ll have to wait and see what Cookie decides. I don’t want to give too much of the game away tonight,” says Joe Root.
STUMPS - ENGLAND LEAD BY 311
125th over: England 414-5 (Bairstow 82, Moeen 60) And so ends a topsy-turvy day. Pakistan started well, middled well yet ended behind by a considerable distance. Credit to the two bats that walk off, who blitzed Pakistan’s four-man attack for 132 runs in the final 27.3 overs of the session.
124th over: England 412-5 (Bairstow 81, Ali 59) A relaxed England dressing room watch on as a few nudges bring a few more runs to take the lead to 309. Anderson successfully catches a football on the back of his neck.
123rd over: England 408-5 (Bairstow 79, Ali 57) A fine sweep beats fine leg and then the sweeper – Rahat Ali, who trapped one perfectly earlier today – to take Bairstow to 78. Azhar Ali’s leg theory to Moeen beats his own keeper as one keeps low and adds a bye against Sarfraz Ahmed’s name.
122nd over: England 402-5 (Bairstow 74, Ali 57) The boundaries have stopped but the runs are still flowing as these two push the field to the end of its tether. Three overs or seven minutes left.
121st over: England 397-5 (Bairstow 72, Ali 54) With Moeen on strike, Azhar decides to just bowl into his pads. Shane Warne wants Moeen to take him (Azhar) Downtown. Moeen decides to take the side street to fine leg and pitch up at the nonstriker’s end.
120th over: England 395-5 (Bairstow 71, Ali 53) Shah rattles through his over. Not sure that’s the wisest move from Pakistan’s point of view. Still, only one from it as he pushes everything through, past Bairstow’s off stump.
119th over: England 394-5 (Bairstow 71, Ali 52) A better over from Azhar means, disappointingly, little filth.
118th over: England 389-5 (Bairstow 68, Ali 50) Moeen Ali drives serenely out of the rough to get four through extra cover. A single to wide mid on brings him his second half-century of the match. This one, from 64 balls, has been something of a game-turner. Pakistan were circling at 282-5. More than 100 runs later, and they’re ragged.
117th over: England 382-5 (Bairstow 67m Ali 44) Excellent piece of village cricket from Azhar Ali. Two rank long hops – one which surprises Ali down the leg side, the second which is smashed through square leg for four. Excellent running brings up the century partnership between these two in just 117 deliveries
116th over: England 374-5 (Bairstow 64, Ali 39) Just three from that Shah over – booooooooo – only because of some better fielding that over. A minimum of nine overs left in the day. The lead by close should be over 300...
115th over: England 371-6 (Bairstow 62, Ali 38) Amir decides this over that bumpers are the way to go. A handful clear the Moeen Ali’s head easily, while Bairstow is more than happy to take him on. The final ball of the over, to Moeen Ali, is full and guided by Moeen to point... who misfields and gives him four! Meanwhile Rob Smyth, sitting across from me, has news: “In this innings Bairstow has broken the record for most runs by an England keeper in a calendar year. He should shatter the overall record too given how many Tests England are playing.”
114th over: England 363-5 (Bairstow 60, Ali 32) More edges for four – Ali prods forward for the first before slashing purposefully for the second. That’s 11 runs from the over and a lead of 260...
113th over: England 352-5 (Bairstow 60, Ali 21) With second slip taken at, Bairstow can throw his hands at a ball that goes across him without fear. An edge where that man would have been gives him four and sees Misbah moved first to first-and-a-half slip. “This is really the business, isn’t it? Two teams who really know what they’re doing, going at it, hard as nails. Swings one way, then the other, turns on a sixpence. And doesn’t it have the feel of being a series between the genuine two best teams in the world at the moment? Awesome, retro-cricket - look at the scoring rate! This has a 70’s feel to it! It’s got everything. The perfect contrast to the clownish performance of our Antipodean friends too (although, mighty well done Sri Lanka!).” A wistful flow, brought to a close with a dig at Australia. Well played, Mr Hindle.
112th over: England 346-5 (Bairstow 55, Ali 20) “Yes, yes, yes!” calls Bairstow, as he cuts behind point. No, no, no need to run, though, as the ball beats point comprehensively for four. Shah is looking laboured, here. Every inch of Pakistan’s four-man attack is being tested here.
111st over: England 341-5 (Bairstow 50, Ali 20) Mohammad Amir into the attack and Moeen Ali immediately uses the angle to guide behind point for a couple (Bairstow wanted three).
110th over: England 339-5 (Bairstow 50, Ali 18) A powerful sweep and a dab to fine leg takes Bairstow to his eighth fifty, which has started to take the game away from Pakistan. The last 10 overs have reaped 55 runs...
109th over: England 332-5 (Bairstow 44, Ali 17) Quality batting from Jonny Bairstow. Sohail Khan is weary and just putting the ball outside off stump, so Bairstow decides to shift across, so that he is batting on off stump, to work the right armer through midwicket for three. Better timing on the penultimate ball allows him to go straighter and, therefore, send it away to the boundary uninterrupted.
108th over: England 321-5 (Bairstow 34, Ali 16) Three from the over, as Ali and Bairstow show quick feet to engineer singles either side of the wicket. Slightly risky one from Moeen, as he drops his wrist into one which flashes past bat-pad, but gets away with it.
107th over: England 318-5 (Bairstow 33, Ali 14) A short interlude for drinks and then back to your scheduled raunchy Moeen programming – lavish back cut through point beats the fielder in the ring, the boundary rider and my heart.
106th over: England 313-5 (Bairstow 33, Ali 9) Delicious drive from Moeen as he skips to the pitch of a leg spinner from Shah and crunches him the covers. And if you thought that was great, he spoils us with a wristy tuck through midwicket, beating the man at wide mid on, for another boundary. The sort of shot you’d hide from your parents.
105th over: England 304-5 (Bairstow 33, Ali 1) A strong back cut nearly beats the boundary ride at third man, but a sprint and a tumble ensures two runs are saved. Still, the brace takes England’s lead to 201.
104th over: England 302-5 (Bairstow 31, Ali 1) Moeen Ali finally gets off the mark, after 15 scoreless balls, with an easy single to a dozing mid on. Bairstow misses out on a full toss: the sort of full toss that a clubbie cowboy would have carted to Cow Corner for many. A batsman worth their salt attempts to guide it through cover. None.
103rd over: England 300-5 (Bairstow 30, Ali 0) Through extra cover again for Bairstow: this time off Rahat Ali, this time for four. The stump cam view was great, helping pick up an extra flick of the wrist from Jonny’s hockey days. A second boundary comes through backward point, bringing up the second innings 300. England lead by 197
102nd over: England 290-5 (Bairstow 20, Ali 0) Really good from Bairstow, who is not doing anything outlandish but is still able to drive Shah off the back foot through extra cover – first for two, then three.
101st over: England 285-5 (Bairstow 15, Ali 0) Bairstow gets a wide one out of the screws just straight to the man at deep cover meaning there’s only a single. It’s a shot he has fallen to – slashing square – but played, this time, with conviction.
100th over: England 284-5 (Bairstow 14, Ali 0) Interesting maiden from Yasir Shah, not least because Moeen missed out on clouting a short delivery through square leg and a full ball through midwicket. Good turn out of the rough, too, brings a few skewed edges into the dirt. Feels like Moeen is on the cusp of working one that isn’t there...
99th over: England 284-5 (Bairstow 14, Ali 0) Rahat Ali nearly in on the act, as his change-up cuts through Bairstow on the inside edge, well-taken by Sarfraz Ahmed. Could have easily gone for four byes. Pakistan sense something, here...
98th over: England 282-5 (Bairstow 12, Ali 0) Poor from Ballance. He knew the leg slip was there yet makes no attempt to keep him out of the game. Video when it comes, but geez, it’s just sloppy from a player who knows better. Moeen Ali comes in and Shah gives him a belter: a leggie that doesn’t spin which beats the outside edge out of the rough.
WICKET! Ballance c Shafiq b Shah 28 (England 282-5)
Just as Atherton and Warne were discussing the merits of a leg slip to Ballance with the leggie bowling, Ballance tickles one straight to Asad Shafiq for a simple catch.
97th over: England 281-4 (Ballance 28, Bairstow 11) Ooooo Rahat - where did that come from? Over the wicket to the left hander, he gets one to jump up off a length to Gary Ballance. At first, it looked like it was heading to the slips, but Ballance got a good fist on it to keep it down.
Geoff agrees. That’s a good thing, right?
96th over: England 279-4 (Ballance 27, Bairstow 11) Here we go - Yasir Shah into the attack. Starts show but is only penalised twos runs (a single each to Ballance and Bairstow). Better for the rest but every quicker delivery, which he hopes will rag, just skid on. For the benefit of the spectacle, England need to be bowled up.
95th over: England 276-4 (Ballance 25, Bairstow 10) Another maiden. Six balls of nowt: of width and nowt. Zilch.
94th over: England 276-4 (Ballance 25, Bairstow 10) “What’s this email business with you and Tim being .casual?” asks Andrew Benton. Part of my agreement with the Guardian is to have a middle name. The best way to do this was to rename me “Vithushan Casual”. Tim was concerned that his name rolled off the tongue too easily. Nowt much that over, other than an eighth no ball for Sohail Khan.
93rd over: England 275-4 (Ballance 25, Bairstow 10) Good from Bairstow, as he drives Amir through extra cover for four. “Good” in the sense that he’s being positive – the shot was most muscle than timing, but it’s going to give Misbah something to think about. Mo Amir’s not chuffed, either.
92nd over: England 271-4 (Ballance 23, Bairstow 6) Rahat Ali with a nod to the start of the football season with a lovely touch with his right boot to save a run on the boundary, as Bairstow follows an outswinger to drive it through the covers for three.
91st over: England 267-4 (Ballance 25, Bairstow 3) A good last five deliveries from Amir to Ballance is ruined by a little movement into the hip, which is worked well behind square for four. Amir yelped in anger as the ball left his hand. Bit of a giveaway, that.
90th over: England 262-4 (Ballance 21, Bairstow 2) Hello again, everyone. Neat little moment at Guardian HQ where I got to use my new pass to free someone from the purgatory that is the corridor where the bathrooms are. As someone who has been trapped many a time in that area – you require a pass to leave but not to enter – it was quite cathartic. Sohail Khan starts with a maiden.
89th over: England 262-4 (Ballance 21, Bairstow 2) No alarms for Bairstow, but no runs either. And that’s tea. England’s total isn’t quite as good as it looks: they’ve managed only 142-4 today, off 54 overs. Misbah has stifled them with his policy of all-out defence. Time for something more entertaining, in the form of Vish. Thanks for reading.
88th over: England 262-4 (Ballance 21, Bairstow 2) Jonny Bairstow, who fell to Sohail in the first innings, is itching to tuck in, but only manages a cut for a single. England lead by 159 and there will be one more fusillade from Amir before tea.
87th over: England 261-4 (Ballance 21, Bairstow 1) The new ball is swinging lavishly, but far from lethally, as most of the swing is coming when the ball starts wide of off and goes wider. This may be just what the Misbah ordered, but Amir is running in hard and at least trying to make a decent finish of it. He collects a maiden.
86th over: England 261-4 (Ballance 21, Bairstow 1) Ballance takes one amidships, as they say on Test Match Special; he was crouching even before he was hit, so it might have been worth an LBW shout had it not been a no-ball. Sohail has bowled a few of those, but this should not have been among them: his heel was grazing the line.
85th over: England 259-4 (Ballance 20, Bairstow 1) So the new ball brings a breakthrough. Just when it seemed all Vince could manage was a breezy 42, he delivers a stodgy 42 instead. In the end, he reverted to type, going back to Amir and fishing at one he could easily have left. Just deserts, though, for Amir, who has been solid all series without much to show for it. The new partnership gets under way with a single to each batsman.
Vince! For 42! It’s not the meaning of life, it’s the graveyard of his dreams. A waft at Amir, a gift for Younis Khan at second slip. England 257-4.
84th over: England 257-3 (Vince 42, Ballance 19) Sohail Khan returns to share the new ball. Ballance tucks him for a single. One ball scuttles along the ground, possibly raising England’s hopes for tomorrow. Vince flicks off his hip for a single to equal his Test best of 42. In Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 42 was the meaning of life; here, not so much. Ballance cuts for four, more Cook-like than ever.
83rd over: England 251-3 (Vince 41, Ballance 14) Ballance tucks Rahat off his hip for four. Now that Alastair Cook has decided to be the new Matthew Hayden, Ballance is in prime position to be the new Alastair Cook. He adds a single, and Misbah is so rattled, he takes the new ball. Vince, pleased to see the back of the boring old ball, celebrates with a clip for four. England’s lead is 148.
82nd over: England 242-3 (Vince 37, Ballance 9) A single to each batsman off Yasir Shah. We need more.
81st over: England 240-3 (Vince 36, Ballance 8) Rahat back in maiden mode, but not being completely negative: he beats Ballance with one that coolly holds its line.
80th over: England 240-3 (Vince 36, Ballance 8) Yasir continues into the rough outside Vince’s off stump, and the ball only goes in one direction: past the keeper – for two byes, then four off the bat, as Vince gets something on a sweep. He is half-way to conVincing us doubters. England lead by 137 and the new ball is due.
79th over: England 234-3 (Vince 32, Ballance 8) Ballance opens the face and cover-shoves Rahat for four. He could soon be requiring a Private Eye-style apology: in common with all the other newspapers, we may have given the impression that Mr Gareth Ballance was a snail...
78th over: England 230-3 (Vince 32, Ballance 4) Gary Ballance is hardly the man you’d cast for this scene – too dogged, too dour – but he picks up three off Yasir with a purposeful squirt into the covers.
77th over: England 227-3 (Vince 32, Ballance 1) Afternoon everyone and thanks Vish. Rahat bowls yet another maiden, faithfully carrying out Misbah’s mission unwatchable. The only person who’s been trying to win this match for the past three hours is Joe Root, and now he’s gone. James Vince has got to step up. There is a diem here, and it is crying out to be carpe-d.
76th over: England 226-3 (Vince 32, Ballance 1) Something of a gift, from Root, but I don’t really have a problem with him getting on with the game (and it no doubt moves on with his wicket). James Vince, after Ballance sweeps to get off the mark, steps into a tidy drive through midwicket for four. I’m going to hand over to Tim for now. Be back with you at tea.
WICKET! Root c Hafeez b Shah 62 (England 221-3)
Root tries to sweep out of the rough, as Shah bowls around the wicket, but can only top edge the ball to Mo Hafeez lurking around the corner. Simple catch
75th over: England 221-2 (Root 62, Vince 28) Not much to report from that over, other than Rahat Ali bowled it and James Vince was there, too. “At what stage will Vince consider that he has played himself in?” asks Robert Darby. “And will it be before England decide to declare?”
74th over: England 221-2 (Root 62, Vince 28) Shah takes a new angle – around the wicket – which nearly causes a run out. Vince plays off his pads around the corner, follows the ball, only to look back down the pitch and see Root halfway down. After three or four false starts, Root heads back to his end, just about beating the throw back to the bowler. Happy to use his bat, is Vince. A ball that might have been kicked away is played through midwicket for a single.
73rd over: England 220-2 (Root 62, Vince 27) “Ban drawn games?” suggests Bored John. It has picked up a bit to be fair, John. And then there’s that – a smidge of reverse swing for Sohail Khan, as the ball tails into Root, who very nearly chops on.
72nd over: England 220-2 (Root 62, Vince 27) Eight off the first two deliveries of Shah’s over. A quicker delivery is guided down to third man for four, before Root gets out the slog sweep but under-edges past off stump for another boundary. A single to midwicket, again swept, brings Vince on strike. Shah, looking to surprise Vince with pace, cocks up his line and is tickled around the corner for four.
71st over: England 207-2 (Root 53, Vince 23) Vince is watchful but is lured into playing at the final delivery, edging just short of first slip. Hafeez has to dive to his right but, hmmm, let’s give Vince the benefit of the doubt. “Soft hands”...
70th: England 206-2 (Root 52, Vince 23) There we are – Root gets a freebie from Yasir Shah and pummels him square of the wicket for four to take him to 50 off 108 balls AND give England to a lead of 100. Three more singles take advantage of a few over-pitched deliveries from Shah. As Tim next to me has pointed out, this is now Vince’s longest Test innings, after his first innings effort of 65 balls.
69th over: England 199-2 (Root 46, Vince 22) Huge cheers go up as first Vince takes a single and then Root finds three to midwicket. That single brought up Vince’s third run in the last 10 overs. Meanwhile, at Lord’s, where Middlesex are playing Surrey...
68th over: England 195-2 (Rooot 43, Vince 21) Good work from Joel Wilson, as Mohammad Amir decides to bring his left arm around the wicket and drops one just on the edge of the strip. However, a wider delivery to finish the over – from over the wicket this time – isn’t pulled up.
67th over: England 194-2 (Root 43, Vince 21) Just the one over for Yasir Shah as Sohail Khan comes on from his end. Root drives him nice out to the off side sweeper for one, before coaxing James Vince into a single after the latter defends just behind point. Root’s certainly looking to get on with it. Opens the face to third man to keep the strike. Hmmmm... big shot coming. I can feel it in my only clean loins I had this morning.
66th over: England 190-2 (Root 41, Vince 20) A maiden, as Vince watches all but one delivery pass him through to the keeper. Kate emails in from chilly Perth: “As a Pommie I am delighted that the Aussies are disgraced in Sri Lanka. Heads will roll, just wait and see.” And so the next chapter of Shaun Marsh’s Test career begins.
65th over: England 190-2 (Root 41, Vince 20) Root sweeps Yasir Shah through square leg for four. Despite the back issue, he gets down early and low enough to watch the ball onto the middle of the bat. The back doesn’t seem to be hindering his running, either, as he tucks one around the corner and scampers back for two.
64th: England 184-2 (Root 35, Vince 20) Much made of some negative tactics/inspired captaincy from Misbah. That first over of the session seemed fine, as Amir starts just outside off stump and is only negotiated for one as Root walks across to play to third man.
Afternoon OBO-ers – Vish here, taking over from Tim for the first part of this middle session. What a peculiar morning that was. Feel free to get in contact on email firstname.lastname@example.org or that there ol’ Twitter on @Vitu_E.
So England are 80 ahead, with 62 overs left in the day. Misbah may have snuffed out their hopes of declaring tonight, unless Cook responds and sends Bairstow up the order with instructions to make mayhem. Even if England break the chains, they will only be 320 or so ahead by the close. Cook has suddenly become a dasher with the bat: can he also be bolder with his declarations? The next 23 hours will tell, unless England collapse, which might not be bad for the game. In the meantime, Vish has slipped into the seat next to me. See you later.
The Cook & Root show continues. Alastair Cook did something most un-Cook-like this morning: he gave his wicket away, spooning a square push to backward point. But he still made 66, and he and Joe Root now have 800 in the series – Root 419, Cook 381, for nine times out between them. If my arithmetic is working, that tally of 800 is the same as all England’s other recognised batsmen put together, from Bairstow with 147 down to Stokes with 34. Phenomenal stuff. And one more reason why Pakistan should be trying to get Root out.
63rd over: England 183-2 (Root 34, Vince 20) Rahat takes a break, thankfully, after doing his best to put a tranquilliser dart in a great contest. Yasir returns and Root gets him away for four through midwicket. The partnership is 57 – too slow, but with mitigating circumstances. And that’s lunch, with England 80 ahead. A morning that should have belonged to Pakistan finishes even instead.
62nd over: England 178-2 (Root 29, Vince 20) Root does his best to make something happen, taking a two and a single off Amir. But the bowling is still outside off – in fact that is true of every ball this morning from the quicks. Misbah seems determined to play for a draw. It’s a great shame.
61st over: England 175-2 (Root 26, Vince 20) Rahat tests Vince outside off, Vince isn’t falling for it, and the stalemate persists. There have only been 55 runs this morning, off 26 overs. Come on someone, do something.
60th over: England 175-2 (Root 26, Vince 20) Amir returns, and Vince, getting well across to the offside, cover-drives for one. He is into the 20s, the danger zone for him. With Cook gone and Root aching, this is the moment to make a name for himself.
59th over: England 174-2 (Root 26, Vince 19) Rahat to Root: yet more dots. The past half-hour could have been painted by Seurat.
58th over: England 174-2 (Root 26, Vince 19) A couple of singles off Yasir, including Root’s first run for ages. After easing to 12 off 13 balls, he has only 14 off his last 50. But he is still there, and even with that bad back, his is the wicket Misbah will want most.
57th over: England 172-2 (Root 25, Vince 18) Another maiden to Rahat, and an unlucky one as he finds Root’s edge, only to see a tricky chance grassed by Hafeez. Scores on the doors for dropped catches in this series: England 9, Pakistan 9. We even have parity on that front.
Root escapes! A tough chance, low to Hafeez at first slip, and the first blot on Pakistan’s fielding in this match.
56th over: England 172-2 (Root 25, Vince 18) Yasir to Vince, who is becalmed for a while before edging a couple. He then plays a nice whip for four, much more himself. So England fail in their bid to to match Australia, who batted through 25 maidens in a row the other day in Sri Lanka.
55th over: England 166-2 (Root 25, Vince 12) Rahat beats Root outside off, thrice, which is no mean feat, even when Root has a bad back. A fourth successive maiden: this is the morning with everything. England lead by 63.
“I dropped my car off this morning at the local carwash,” says Steve Hudson, making you wonder where he and his car are going. “Staffed entirely by Polish blokes. When I dropped it off, the radio was tuned to Radio 4. When I picked it up, it was tuned to TMS! Have they gone native, do you think?”
54th over: England 166-2 (Root 25, Vince 12) Yasir helps himself to the third maiden in a row. With Root in pain, Vince needs to step up and take charge. As captain of Hampshire, he can surely see that – but he is playing for his Test future, so he keeps stroking it to the men saving one. Maybe those stayaway Brummies know what they’re doing after all.
53rd over: England 166-2 (Root 25, Vince 12) Root is OK to bat on, but you wonder if all that feasting at Old Trafford took it out of him. Rahat tries to tempt him outside off, and fails. Another maiden. Pakistan are being too defensive, Shane Warne is right, even if Paul has a point here:
52nd over: England 166-2 (Root 25, Vince 12) A maiden for Yasir to Vince. More significantly, Joe Root has called for the physio as his back is playing up. The prescription seems to be some pills and a very pink drink.
An email arrives from John Starbuck, a man prepared to pay for his journalism. “In the Big Paper today (sports section),” he says, “you show several supporters dressed as famous footballers. But on the first day’s TV highlights I saw several people costumed as Geoffrey Boycott, jacket, tie, sort-of-Panama hat etc. Obviously his next step is to become a pantomime character, unless he already is. Anyone seen him appear as such anywhere?”
51st over: England 166-2 (Root 25, Vince 12) A bye, a nudge for one by Vince, and a crisp push for two from Root. Nasser Hussain, a prince among commentators, is wondering whether there’s some reverse swing for Rahat. If so, it will make today even more compelling, but the jury is out.
50th over: England 162-2 (Root 23, Vince 11) Vince cover-drives, more watchfully than usual, and gets two to Rizwan, who is now a marked man, winning wild acclaim just for stopping the ball. Still some empty seats out there. If you wouldn’t go to a Test match today, when would you?
49th over: England 160-2 (Root 23, Vince 9) Rahat replaces Sohail, and Root flicks him to long leg, where the sub fielder, Rizwan, makes his bid to be a YouTube phenomenon by diving too soon, missing the ball, then retrieving it and throwing it nowhere.
48th over: England 156-2 (Root 19, Vince 9) Another single to Root off Yasir, who has started nicely, not too quick. Vince defends comfortably, with no silly point to put pressure on him. Warne is more and more convinced that Misbah is missing a trick. And that’s drinks. England lead by 53. The first hour belongs to Pakistan – and to the Test-match gods, who will have looked down and been riveted.
47th over: England 155-2 (Root 18, Vince 9) Sohail continues, Misbah’s fields remain conservative, so Root settles for a single. Vince finds the midwicket boundary, smoothly, as Sohail fails to bowl to his field. Shane Warne is harrumphing about Pakistan not going in for the kill.
Dave Brown picks up on the commentators-in-ties thread. “I guess the swanky lunches, teas and dinners they’re invited to require a tie.” That might be a touch harsh: lunch for the media, tends to be a spread laid on by the sponsor, the same for a former superstar as it it is for the humble hack. I wonder if it’s a case of Sky, once the upstart of cricket broadcasting, trying too hard to be proper.
46th over: England 150-2 (Root 17, Vince 5) Here’s Yasir, as expected. With a fourth-day pitch, it’s time for his luck to turn again. Root plays him well, all crisp footwork. He’s the kind of player who gives the coaching manual a good name.
45th over: England 149-2 (Root 16, Vince 5) An over in which the main interest is Sohail’s signature grunt. Root collects another single. Even when he is in imperious form, he’s still busy, whereas Vince, as yet, is all or nothing.
44th over: England 147-2 (Root 15, Vince 5) A single to Root off Amir as the day threatens to calm down after that electric start. “Tickets were on sale outside for £41 this morning,” Gary Naylor notes. “That has to be value in this day and age.”
43rd over: England 146-2 (Root 14, Vince 5) Three singles off Sohail, who has been incisive but expensive. Expect a long spell from Yasir Shah.
This is how Hales fell. He still has a problem outside off stump, the place the ball is most likely to be. And his rather solemn approach to Test cricket allows the bowlers to keep on probing there. He needs to throw sobriety to the winds.
42nd over: England 142-2 (Root 12, Vince 4) Root is bristling with intent, on the counter as they say in football. He late-cuts Amir for a couple and square-drives for a single to cruise to 12 off his first 13 balls. Is the hundred that was beckoning to Cook and Hales going to be his instead? James Vince, taking the cue, gets off the mark with of those stylish cover drives that are his forte and often his downfall.
41st over: England 135-2 (Root 9, Vince 0) Sohail conceded a few as Root gets off the mark with his signature shot, the back-foot drive – undeterred by the fact that it was his undoing early on in the first innings – and follows up with an equally peachy front-foot drive, plus a single. Misbah won’t mind too much. Those two wickets have made a result a lot more likely, and with Vince out there so early, Pakistan know they are through to the soft underbelly, or after-Belly.
40th over: England 126-2 (Root 0, Vince 0) Another wicket maiden as Amir finds the corridor. Big moment for Vince: he has to deliver.
Hales too! Amir probing, Hales tempted, caught at slip, out for 54 and still no hundred for him. England 126-2. The ebb and flow couldn’t be better.
39th over: England 126-1 (Hales 54, Root 0) A wicket maiden for Sohail, who accepts that gift from Cook, finds the accelerator, and thinks he’s got Root too, fending at a snorter. Misbah, who tends to err on the side of caution, doesn’t feel it’s worth a review. Game on: England are, in effect, 29-1, just a collapse away from blowing this.
Cook has thrown it away, most uncharacteristically, with a loose push to Yasir at backward point off Sohail. Gone for 66, England 126-1.
38th over: England 126-0 (Cook 66, Hales 54) Amir keeps Hales honest with a maiden. Hales started this innings awfully slowly, dealing only in dots, unable to hand the strike back to Cook. He then blossomed, so the innings is a microcosm of his whole Test experience. But he needs to be himself. He did a classy thing overnight: when a fan on Twitter complained about the over-rate, he offered a refund, and paid it.
37th over: England 126-0 (Cook 66, Hales 54) Sohail Khan, a force on the first day, is feeling it now. Cook helps himself to a couple off his pads. The stroke has been there throughout his career, but the aura of serenity is new.
36th over: England 124-0 (Cook 64, Hales 54) The sun is shining, and so is Alex Hales’s strokeplay. He rocks back to cut Mohammad Amir for four. The ground, astonishingly, isn’t sold out.
The Sky commentators, Gower, Botham and Hussain, are standing on the outfield in their ties. Earlier in the week I was in Canary Wharf, where not even bankers feel a tie is worth bothering with any more. But to commentate on an open-necked game, it’s apparently essential. Can anybody explain why?
Australia crushed. It’s not often you can say that, but it happened this morning in Sri Lanka.
Morning everyone. Well, this is tasty. The match, in fact the series, is as level as a remark from Richie Benaud. Either team could end up winning 3-1, or this match could be drawn, to set up a grand finale at the Oval next week.
After Cook and Hales finally clicked last night, the bookmakers think England are well on top (they are 6/4, Pakistan 8/1, the draw favourite at 10/11). They’re clearly not expecting much reverse swing today, or a revival from Yasir Shah, whose good days still far outnumber his bad ones. Or else they’ve spotted some previously undetected solidity in this England middle order.
Some intriguing questions will be answered today. Can Alex Hales get his first Test century? After several near-misses against Sri Lanka, he may find the nervous 90s setting in as soon as he gets to 80. Can Alastair Cook, in the form of his life, become the first Englishman to make 30 Test hundreds? Can the Pakistan seamers stop feeding his favourite shot, the cut? Can England score fast enough, and Cook be bold enough, to declare tonight? Can James Vince convert his natural elegance into more than a cameo?