England vs Pakistan: Third Test Day Four - Hosts frustrated by belligerent batting
James Anderson was left on 599 wickets at stumps on a largely fruitless day for the England attack

Pakistan ground out a likely draw at the Ageas Bowl as a combination of the weather and their top order frustrated England’s bowlers on a day four where just two wickets fell.

Another drop off Anderson frustrates as he looks for 600

All eyes this morning were on James Anderson as he started the day two wickets away from number 600, but England’s efforts to secure an innings victory over Pakistan were thwarted by stoic batting, rain and then eventually bad light.

He ended the day on 599 wickets, tantalisingly close to that historic milestone, after finding some reverse swing late on to dismiss Abid Ali LBW. Abid had played nicely for a patient 42 after surviving a probing Stuart Broad over early in the morning session but, like so many before him, was undone by some Anderson magic.

In truth it was a pitch with little in it once the shine went off the new ball, but England didn’t help themselves. Anderson should have had his 599th wicket in his third over of the day, as he tempted Shan Masood into a loose drive that sailed through Jos Buttler’s gloves and onto the grass. The drop was a blot on what has been a fine performance from Buttler in this test, and possibly a reminder that his keeping will be under scrutiny going into winter tours of India and Sri Lanka.

England toil for little reward

That made it four drops in 37 balls for Anderson, carrying on a theme from the end of the first innings and he could only laugh as he reflected on his misfortune. After that drop, however, the most exciting thing that happened for the next hour was the sight of Paul Collingwood in whites to run drinks, after Ollie Pope damaged his shoulder diving in the outfield. The Surrey youngster didn’t take to the field after walking off in the third over, with no word yet on how bad any potential injury is.

England spent most of the day- either side of a near three and a half hour rain delay- cycling through their pace attack with Dom Bess economical but largely unthreatening from his 14 overs. He occasionally found some turn but failed to settle on a line and length, and the Pakistan top order negotiated him comfortably for the most part. Bess is still young, and shows a lot of promise, but his failure to be penetrative in the fourth innings this summer may cause some concern ahead of those aforementioned winter tours on flat, dusty decks.

Chris Woakes, superb when there’s anything in it for the seamers, was unthreatening. Jofra Archer was economical but failed to trouble the batsmen with the same pace he found on day three. Broad and Anderson had little luck with the new ball and their spells with the old ball were only for a small reward.

On a day England will be quite glad to put behind them, more frustration came towards the end via the umpires. Just a few overs after the ball began to reverse swing, with Anderson having picked up Abid, it was decided that it was only light enough for the spinners to bowl. Some four overs later not even the spinners were able to bowl, with the light getting worse and stumps soon called as the rain rolled in.

Anderson stranded on 599 overnight

It took until the 24th over for England to make the breakthrough they so desperately craved, having forced the follow on the previous evening before bad light intervened. It was only four overs into an extended afternoon session, with tea having already been taken, that Broad struck. Masood had ridden his luck earlier when Buttler dropped him, but had little luck after he left a ball that straightened just enough for Hawkeye to return the LBW decision to Michael Gough on field. It was just about clipping off stump and, despite a look of disbelief from the opener, England had their breakthrough.

Beyond that though, England were only to find the wicket of Abid as finally some lateral movement came about. It had taken until the 46th over, by Broad, to find any movement as a full ball in the channel veered back towards Abid. Anderson also found some reverse, and would have been eyeing up 600 after he pinned the opener on the crease playing for away swing. There were some 157 deliveries between the two wickets on day four, showcasing just how much England struggled. Anderson will have to wait a bit longer to etch his name into more history though as soon after poor light then rain brought play to a close for the day.

On a day that belonged to Pakistan’s top order as much as the weather, the chances of an England win vanished with storm Francis set to ruin the morning session on day five at least. England, and Anderson, will be praying the forecast clears up to give them a chance of a win. Whatever happens, much has already been learnt going into a gruelling winter tour of the subcontinent- improvement will be needed in those dead overs after the new ball.