A strong batting performance has ensured Pakistan will have high hopes of getting a positive result and taking the series lead.
Having bowled out England cheaply on Day One, Pakistan began batting this morning knowing they were already on the front foot. Their innings didn't get off to a strong start as Mohammad Hafeez fell to James Anderson having faced just four deliveries and failing to score. Sami Aslam and Azhar Ali dug in and having capitalised on dropped catches and poor work in the field from England the pair rebuilt the Pakistan innings.
Misbah Ul-Haq's side lost Sami Aslam late in the day, but the experienced Younus Khan looked assured at the crease and took Pakistan to 257-3 at the close of play, still trailing by 40 runs.
Azhar Ali's magnificent innings gives Pakistan control
Azhar Ali would have liked the openers to perform, it wasn't to be however as the Pakistan number three came to the crease in the first over of the day. Despite his early arrival, the Pakistan batsman looked extremely comfortable at the crease. His innings began slowly as Ali showed great control and restraint as he left anything outside off stump.
As Azhar Ali got set into his innings his strike rate slowly increased, eventually climbing to around fifty once the number three had passed his tenth test century in 48 matches. It could have been a very different story for England. Ali was put down in the slips by Joe Root after Anderson had expertly found that outside edge of Ali's bat. At the time Ali was on just 38. Azhar Ali was dropped again when on 69 as he smashed the ball back at Moeen Ali who couldn't hold on to the catch off his own bowling.
Azhar Ali proved to be the glue Pakistan needed in their innings as he built two strong partnerships. The first with Sami Aslam being worth 181 runs and providing the launch pad for Pakistan's innings. The second was shared with Younus Khan. Azhar and Younus put on 76 for the third wicket as they started looking to increase the run-rate.
Azhar Ali finally fell on the very last ball of the day as he edged behind for a fantastic 139. Finally falling to the bowling of Chris Woakes.
Sami Aslam falls just shy of a record breaking century
Despite losing his opening partner so early in the innings, the young opener was unfazed and simply got on with building his own innings. Alsam had been called upto the side to replace Shan Masood, the Pakistan camp having come to the realisation the couldn't accomadate a man who had so clearly become Anderson's bunny.
Aslam, on the other hand, looked completely unfazed by England's leading wicket taker. The young opener batted with a class and temperament normally associated with batsmen ten years his senior. Despite his relative lack of test experience, his innings put many of England's batsmen to shame. Displaying great control the twenty year old gave England's bowlers no chances, his defiance slowly grinding down the England attack and his penchant for quick singles prevented any of the England pacemen from having a chance to set him up.
Sami Aslam finally fell on for 82 from 176 deliveries. His partner, Azhar Ali, set off for a quick single that was never really there. After excellent work in the field the Pakistan opener was well short of his ground as James Vince uprooted the stumps with a direct hit. Sami Aslam finally fell just 18 runs short of his first test century which would also of given him the record of being the youngest test opener to score a ton on English soil.
A tame day for England
When Azhar Ali and Sami Aslam were ticking along nicely a withered looking bowling attack looked seemingly lost for ideas of how to break this partnership. With Ben Stokes unable to play through injury, the attack appeared to lack fire. Steven Finn didn't pose much threat and unusually neither did Stuart Broad. Moeen Ali caused brief discomfort for the Pakistan batting line-up but it was still evident England are still missing a truly top-class spinner.
Chris Woakes and Jimmy Anderson both bowled well but were regularly let down by their fielders. Anderson found the edge a few times only to see the ball drop short of their slips and even when it did carry Joe Root was slow to react and shelled what would usually be regarded as a simple catch. The regular misfield's prevented England from truly building pressure. There appeared to be a flat atmosphere around the England squad, poor throws coming in from the field and when James Vince got one throw dead-on, it clipped the stumps ahead of Jonny Bairstow and ran away for four overthrows.
After a poor batting performance yesterday, everything had to go England's way today. Unfortunately it didn't and England will know everything must go perfectly tomorrow if England are to salvage this test match.