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Edgbaston Test: Aslam and Azhar steady Pakistan

BIRMINGHAM: Novice opener Sami Aslam and Azhar Ali helped Pakistan recover from the early loss of Mohammad Hafeez on the second day of the third Test against England at Edgbaston on Thursday.

At tea, Pakistan were 154/1 in reply to England’s first innings 297 — a deficit of 143 runs.

Aslam, playing his first match of the series, was 69 not out and Azhar 72 not out after Hafeez had fallen for a fourth-ball duck to leave Pakistan none for one.

Pakistan suffered a setback just four balls into their innings on Thursday when Hafeez lazily guided a short and wide delivery from James Anderson straight to Gary Ballance at point.

Pakistan had seen Sohail Khan, one of their two changes from the side beaten by 330 runs in the second Test at Old Trafford as England levelled the four-match series at 1-1, take five wickets on Wednesday.

Now all eyes were on Aslam, also playing just his third Test, after the 20-year-old had been brought in to replace struggling opener Shan Masood.

Left-hander Aslam guided Stuart Broad wide of gully for the first four of Pakistan’s innings in the fifth over.

His only prior innings this tour had seen Aslam make just 17 against Worcestershire last week in a two-day warm-up match.

Yet the well-organised opener played with a maturity belying his years in both attack and defence during Thursday’s morning session.

Azhar showed his class by calmly turning Anderson off his legs for four.

And when all-rounder Chris Woakes overpitched on his Warwickshire home ground, Azhar elegantly drove him through the covers for another boundary.

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The stylish 31-year-old was equally severe when fast bowler Steven Finn dropped short, cutting him for four over point to bring up a fifty partnership with Aslam in 21 overs.

Off-spinner Moeen Ali received similar treatment, with Azhar cutting a rank short ball for four.

Wednesday saw Sohail justify both his inclusion, and Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq’s decision to field first, by taking a Test-best five for 96.

After the 32-year-old paceman sparked a top-order collapse, England were indebted to left-handers Ballance (70) and Ali (63) for getting them close to 300. –AFP