Anderson on the brink
Paceman one away from 600-wicket milestone
James Anderson will pull back the curtains of his hotel room overlooking the Ageas Bowl this morning a very nervous man indeed.
Storm Francis is due to hit the area around 7am and linger until after lunch, bringing heavy rain and high winds to deluge an already soggy outfield and threaten to wash away his moment of history.
Anderson can only hope enough time can be salvaged for him to take one more wicket he needs to become the first fast bowler to take 600 in Tests. He moved one small step closer yesterday, taking one for 18 in the 56 overs of play possible on another damp day.
There is no more Test cricket in the calendar for England after this game. A tour of Sri Lanka is mooted in the new year, but Anderson was not picked in the squad the last time England went there earlier this year.
A five-match series is scheduled for India in February but, in this uncertain world, nothing can be guaranteed. Anderson was left out of the side by the end of the last tour of India four years ago, when he was half fit and ineffective on spinning pitches, so he is not exactly guaranteed his spot.
There is a chance the series could be played in the United Arab Emirates, where Anderson extracts reverse swing and averages 20. But Anderson is five years older than he was the last time England toured the Emirates, and he would prefer an empty Ageas Bowl to an empty dust bowl in Sharjah for his landmark moment.
Hampshire have brought in longer covers for this game to protect the bowlers’ run-ups, which were a problem last week.
There is far more urgency from all the officials and ground staff to maximise play, a much more intense drying-up operation is expected today, with an England legend on the verge of history.
England also need to win this
game. The series is in the bag, but the World Test Championship gives every match meaning, and if England win they will earn 30 points and go past Australia into second place behind India. The top two contest the final next year, if it goes ahead.
Pakistan are 100 for two and putting up strong resistance. They looked comfortable on a slow pitch good for batting once the new ball wore off and, in captain Azhar Ali, have a secure and confident batsman with an unbeaten hundred in the first innings to his name.
Only 18 overs were bowled before the rain came down heavily and the teams did not return until almost 4pm for an extended session of 3hr 45min. It did not last that long of course. Bad light curtailed play just after Anderson had moved to 599.
It should have been his 600th, or even 603rd given four catches were dropped off him in 37 balls. Three were on Sunday night in the Pakistan first innings and left Anderson with his head in his hands.
The fourth was probably the worst, given it was by the wicketkeeper, Jos Buttler. He did not even lay a glove on a thick edge from Shan Masood in Anderson’s third over that flew straight at him. It may have deviated slightly, but compared to the stunners Buttler took on Sunday evening this was a regulation catch he would take nine times out of 10.
Anderson took it quite well for him, especially as his patience had just been tested by over-eager young substitute fielder James Bracey needlessly throwing at the stumps and costing four overthrows. Bracey had come on the field for Ollie Pope, who had hurt his left shoulder diving on the boundary.
Pope had surgery on the joint last year and was not seen again for the rest of the day. Bracey’s punishment
One to go: James Anderson celebrates the wicket of Abid Ali, his 599th Test victim
was to spend most of the afternoon at short leg.
Pakistan were comfortable, but gifted England their first wicket. Masood failed to play a shot at Stuart Broad and was given out by Michael Gough.
Masood can consider himself unlucky, with Hawk-Eye judging it to be umpire’s call. He may have been given not out had he played a shot and it was a lapse in concentration just after a drinks break.
This was a snapshot of life overseas: a flat pitch, and a soft ball doing nothing. Even Anderson resorted to bouncers after Abid Ali felt secure enough to advance down the pitch at him. Broad had a go at bowling bumpers round the wicket, but on a slow pitch the batsman had plenty of time to deal with it.
This was a chance for Dom Bess on the kind of pitch he will face this winter. He bowled 14 overs and was more consistent, but lacked real threat, bowling too straight for most of the day. His defensive fields did not help, and were conservative, given England had a mammoth lead.
England worked hard on the ball and eventually found some reverse swing. Abid moved too far across the line to an Anderson inswinger that struck him in front. Anderson nervously watched the review, but it was plumb.
The light was fading and England brought on Jofra Archer, a gamble given the umpires were twitching. Anderson had one more over, but Joe Root was forced to bowl himself to prevent play being suspended. It was not long before it was even too dark for his off-spin.
Moments later the rain started falling and it may not stop in time for Anderson to put the perfect ending on the summer.
An intense drying-up operation is expected, with an England legend on the verge of history
Today’s weather forecast: Rain, initially heavy, clearing after lunch, winds 50-60mph, 20C
Day four scoreboard
Almost there: England bowler James Anderson celebrates his 599th Test wicket after dismissing Pakistan’s Abid Ali at the Ageas Bowl
Not another one: Jos Buttler drops a catch, the fourth shelled chance off James Anderson