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England seal series in 26-run thriller

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Mark Wood celebrates the winning moment after taking four Pakistan wickets for 65.
Mark Wood celebrates the winning moment after taking four Pakistan wickets for 65.

England have created history in Pakistan, securing a series victory over their hosts with a match to spare following a game-breaking display of fast bowling from Mark Wood on a nail-biting fourth day in bustling Multan.

Defending a target of 355 runs, Ben Stokes and his tourists claimed an unassailable 2-0 lead before the third Test in Karachi – just a third series win in Pakistan and a first for 22 years – as Wood’s four for 65 finally broke a spirited chase from the home side for a memorable 26-run victory on the day.

It was Ollie Robinson who sealed the win 15 minutes after lunch, with the No 11 Mohammad Ali edging behind for a duck to see Pakistan 328 all out. There was a check upstairs, naturally, but little doubt among the tourists as they began celebrating a wonderfully executed campaign.

There was also little doubt over the hero on the day, Wood having snared three wickets either side of the break – including the key dismissal of Saud Shakeel for 94 – and delivered a performance that echoed Shoaib Akhtar’s famous burst on this ground during England’s last visit to Pakistan 17 years ago.

The jubilant scenes were a far cry from the tension of a morning session that saw Saud whittle away at the target. Indeed, until the left-hander’s controversial dismissal on the cusp of lunch – one of two vital breakthroughs before the interval from Wood – the hosts had moved themselves to a position of favourites.

Joe Root had struck early for England, his 50th Test wicket coming in the sixth over of the day’s play when he found the edge of Faheem Ashraf’s bat and Zak Crawley held on superbly at slip. Pakistan were 210 for five, still 145 runs away from victory, and in desperate need of a significant partnership to form. And one did, with Saud and Mohammad Nawaz delivering 21 overs and 80 runs of defiance, the former continuing to chisel out his runs watchfully as the latter played the role of aggressor. When Nawaz charged Ollie Robinson, creaming the second new ball through cover for the first boundary England had conceded all match, the target had been reduced to double figures.

England were suddenly looking short of ideas, such was the control the pair showed. Stokes turned to Wood, set the field for a bouncer plan, and his fast bowler thundered in. It was an inspired move by the England captain, Wood finally terminating Nawaz for an impish 45 when the all-rounder gloved to Pope down leg.

While there was no doubt about this dismissal, the same could not be said about Wood’s follow-up to remove Saud in the next over, six runs short of what would have been a deserved maiden Test century. It was a similar ball, angled into the armpit of the left-hander as he flicked behind, but there was enough doubt over whether Pope’s low catch was clean to see the umpires, Marais Eramus and Aleem Dar, ask for assistance with a soft signal of ‘out’.

Despite some frames which suggested a slight drag of a ball along the ground, Joel Wilson in the third umpire’s booth was happy enough and Saud had to go. It left Pakistan 291 for seven at lunch, 64 required to win, and though Abrar Ahmed crashed four fours after the resumption, not even his dream debut could prevent England creating history. The Guardian

Chief scores:

England 281 and 275

Pakistan 202 and 328 (Saud Shakeel 94, Imam ul-Haq 60, Abdullah Shafique 45, Mohammad Nawaz 45, Mark Wood 4-65)

Tuesday, December 13, 2022 – 01:00

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