SOUTHAMPTON: Mohammad Rizwan insisted all was far from lost for Pakistan after they were made to follow-on 310 runs behind in the third Test against England despite a superb unbeaten century from captain Azhar Ali.
Pakistan collapsed to 75-5 on Sunday’s third day before Azhar’s 141 not out guided them to a total of 273.
Rizwan also played his part with a defiant 53 during a sixth-wicket partnership of 138 with Azhar that kept England at bay.
Nevertheless, Pakistan were still left a huge 310 runs behind England’s first innings 583-8 declared.
It was no surprise when, amid an uncertain forecast, England captain Joe Root enforced the follow-on.
But the umpires then decided the light was too dark for Pakistan to begin their second innings even though the Ageas Bowl floodlights were on, a move that ended the day’s play.
England great James Anderson took 5-56 as he moved on to 598 Test wickets and the 38-year-old would have become the first paceman to 600 had not three catches been dropped off him after he had taken the new ball.
Pakistan, 1-0 down in a three-match contest and facing a first series defeat by England in a decade, will now do well to escape with a draw.
But wicket-keeper Rizwan, demonstrating the same defiance he had shown at the crease, told reporters: “We have a few batsmen who can score big, if we can take a 150-run lead then it will be tough for England.”
Under-pressure skipper Azhar had managed just 38 runs in three previous innings this series yet on Sunday he became just the fifth Pakistan batsman to score 6,000 Test runs.
Azhar, an lbw candidate for much of this series, generally kept his head still as he tried to avoid playing round his front pad.
He batted for nearly seven hours, facing 272 balls, with 21 fours in what was his 17th century in 81 Tests.
“If you watched this innings closely, it was a superb knock,” said Rizwan. “He worked on his head position…This was a fighting innings.”
Rizwan, impressive with both gloves and bat this series, went to a second successive fifty by lofting Dom Bess for six before he was well caught down the leg side by Buttler.
“I work hard and I have belief that I carry to the crease,” said Rizwan. “I don’t care what the score is and who is bowling because I know I have done the hard work and the Almighty Allah will reward me for my hard work.”
meanwhile, Bess said he wanted to see more ‘common sense’ applied to the question of bad light.
The issue came to the fore during the drawn second Test, also at Southampton, where many pundits were frustrated by the umpires’ strict interpretation of regulations governing bad light, even when the floodlights were on full beam.
The England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) responded by announcing the series finale would feature more flexible starting hours, with match officials urged to ‘maximise playing time while it is still safe to do so’.
But having allowed Pakistan’s first innings to finish on Sunday, umpires Richard Illingworth and Michael Gough stopped the tourists from batting again shortly after 1800 GMT.
Bess, however, suggested play could have been suspended even earlier and said the fact England dropped three catches in quick succession was an indication of how difficult conditions were becoming for both sides.
“I don’t think it is any excuse for dropping catches, but you’ve got to take into account being out there and what it was like,” Bess said. “It was really dark out there. I was stood at square leg when Azhar pulled one and I did not see it. All seriousness, if that goes near someone or is hit straight at me I genuinely don’t know what I’m going to be doing.”