England fight back on the opening day
Moeen Ali hit a sparkling century as England recovered from a perilous position on the first day of the fourth Investec Test against Pakistan at the Kia Oval.
The classy number seven brought up his third Test ton with a high and handsome maximum off Yasir Shah to a rapturous reception from the near capacity crowd.
England’s top order faltered but from 74-4 Ali shared fine partnerships with Jonny Bairstow – the busy wicketkeeper-batsman struck 55 – and Chris Woakes before batting with the tail to guide the hosts to 328 all out.
Three overs were left for James Anderson and Stuart Broad to tear into the openers and the latter removed Sami Aslam plum LBW from his only over to leave Pakistan 3-1 overnight. Fast bowler Sohail Kahn had returned to clean up the tail for his second consecutive five-wicket haul, but Misbah-ul-Haq will reflect on letting England get out of jail after a dominant first session.
Captain Alastair Cook won the toss and elected to bat first but it was unquestionably Pakistan’s morning with four batsmen back in the sheds and 92 runs on the board. Alex Hales was immensely frustrated to be given out for six when Yasir Shah was adjudged to have claimed a catch at square leg off Mohammad Amir, muttering as he trudged off after the third umpire found no evidence to overturn the on-field decision.
Cook and Joe Root took England past 50 but gifted their wickets with poor shots. Cook, on 35, dragged Sohail Khan onto his stumps before Root played at one he could have left from Wahab Riaz to feather an edge through to Sarfraz Ahmed behind the stumps.
69 for one in 16 overs had become 73 for three and England were soon four down with the addition of one more run. James Vince, searching for a score, got an absolute beauty from pumped up Wahab that angled in a 90mph then climbed and just left him enough for the edge through to Sarfraz.
The chances continued to come after lunch – Bairstow and Ali each had two lives – but before that Gary Ballance was the fifth to fall, edging the excellent Wahab to the tumbling Azhar at third slip.
A partnership was becoming increasingly important and the six-seven combination, who put on a second-innings 152 at Edgbaston, again delivered. Both registered half centuries before lunch and put on 93 for the sixth wicket.
Bairstow fell on the resumption to Amir for 55 – not moving his feet and getting an inside edge through to Sarfraz – but Ali continued to play an array of sparkling shots both sides of the wicket. After a brilliant six off Yasir en route to his eighth Test half century, an on-drive off Wahab, that brought up the 250, was picture-perfect.
Woakes joined Ali and hit shot after shot on the off side, pummeling the attack with a series of aggressive strokes to complement his partner’s calm approach. The pair put on 79 but Woakes fell on 45, getting a slight edge through to Sarfraz from Sohail.
Burly Sohail quickly removed Broad and Steven Finn, with Anderson joining Ali when the left-hander was just 11 runs from a deserved century. But the number 11 applied himself and farming the strike Ali struck a four and then a brilliant six to reach three figures.
The duo put on 32 for the 11th wicket before Ali was finally out for 108 – 13 fours and two sixes – as Sohail claimed his fifth. The well-oiled Oval crowd roared Broad in and Aslam, who hit 82 and 70 on his third Test appearance last week, was trapped LBW.
Eleven wickets and 331 runs on an excellent day of Test cricket, Pakistan will resume tomorrow trailing by 328 runs with nine wickets remaining.
2017 England Test Match at Emirates Old Trafford
England face South Africa in 2017 for the Fourth Investec Test Match, and you can register for ticket news and updates to secure yours as soon as they go on sale – with thousands already interested in what is one of our most popular fixtures in recent years.