England’s first Test against Pakistan is set to end in the stands after an exhilarating fourth day at Rawalpindi.
An aggressive declaration at tea gave the hosts 343 the win and England, playing almost nothing but bouncers, hit with the new ball.
Abdullah Shafique was caught playing a reckless draw and Ben Stokes got the huge wicket from Babar Azam, who was taken behind.
While Azhar Ali also had to retire injured, Pakistan were effectively 25-3.
But Imam-ul-Haq and Saud Shakeel counterattacked, taking Pakistan to 80-2, needing 263 more to win.
England had previously beaten Pakistan for 579 in their first run, with non-spinner Will Jacks claiming 6-161 on his debut.
The Tourists then ran to 264-7 from just 35.5 overs, picking up where they left off in their record-breaking opening innings. Harry Brook hit 87 of 65, Joe Root 73 of 69.
It was breathless, barnstorming stuff, with the prospect of more drama to come on the final day.
England’s relentless will to win
However this test plays out, England should be applauded for their intention to force a result on flat ground that would otherwise have produced a lackluster draw.
It was this intention that carried them through a sensational day of cricket, first through the thrilling onslaught with the bat and then the bouncer’s relentless attack with the new ball.
Added to 657 scored from 101 overs in the first innings, England’s effort on Sunday gave them a match rate of 6.73 – the fastest in Test history of any team batting twice.
The declaration, leaving Pakistan around 100 overs for the chase, was generous, but immediately vindicated by the success of England’s shock tactics.
Shafique unnecessarily fired Ollie Robinson square-leg deep and, two balls later, Azhar left the field after being hit on the bottom hand by the same bowler.
When captain Babar underestimated the number opposite Stokes to wicketkeeper Ollie Pope, Rawalpindi was left in stunned silence.
But Pakistan has not backed down. Imam moved to 43 and Shakeel to 24 in a 55 partnership that leaves the game hanging.
Blistering Brook leads the charge against England
There were no surprises in the way England struck, but that doesn’t make the blistering pace at which they devastated Pakistani bowling any less impressive.
In the 28.5 overs between lunch and tea, England crushed 218 runs in an electric atmosphere created by the home fans, who still roared with each Pakistan success.
The chief destroyer was Brook, who was on course for the fastest hundred test by an England batter for the second time in the game. He hit his third ball for six and bludgeoned many more to the leg side.
By then, Zak Crawley had clocked the ball smooth for 50, while Root made up for his miss in the first inning by exposing his entire class.
The former skipper played in the gaps and ran hard. He played sweeps of all kinds against the spinners, the most surreal of which was when he took on Zahid Mahmood in a left-handed stance.
Brook and Root added 96 in 14 overs, Brook shared 56 in just five with Jacks, who hit three sixes in his 24.
When Brook was launched aiming for another uprising on Naseem Shah, tea was taken and England was declared.
jack the boy
Jacks barely played for Surrey until the start of the summer and only found out he was playing in that game as a substitute for the ailing Ben Foakes two minutes before he got his cap.
He is now the owner of the best tricks by an English bowler of any kind on his Test debut since 2003
After Pakistan rebounded 499-7, Jacks knocked down all three wickets on Sunday morning, notably ending an irritating 57 eighth wicket between Salman Agha and Mahmood.
Salman rolled over after receiving an lbw from Jacks on 45, moving to 53 before slotting in as Jacks steered the ball in front of the wicket.
Mahmood was deftly puzzled by substitute wicketkeeper Pope attempting a reverse sweep and Haris Rauf’s uplift ended in the slipping hands of Root.
It left Jacks as the first English spinner to take six wickets on his debut in 29 years and marked the start of the tourist charge.
“It’s going to be thrilling”
Former England captain Vic Marks in Test Match Special: “Pakistan don’t have to take undue risks and on this track if you don’t I don’t see how spinners take wickets. What could help England is just the pressure to get closer to what would be a historic victory.
“It was very 2022 because England weren’t playing like that a year ago, but I’m still unhappy with a statement that made the recipients the favorites to win the game.
“It’s always so much better than the boring draw we’ve all been expecting. We’re going to have a chilling game.”
Who will win?
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “I think England are favourites. They are extremely confident. They think they can do everything right now.”
Vic Brands: “I would say Pakistan are the favourites. What’s great is that we have a great final.”