Fielding lapses cost England v Pakistan

Azhar Ali (Getty Images)
Azhar Ali (Getty Images)

London - England dropped three catches as Pakistan fought hard in the fourth Test at The Oval on Friday.

At lunch on the second day, Pakistan were 97 for two in reply to England's first innings 328, a deficit of 231 runs.

Azhar Ali was 36 not out and Asad Shafiq 24 not out, with Pakistan bidding to level the four-match series at 2-2.

Pakistan resumed on three for one following the loss of opener Sami Aslam late on Thursday after England's middle-order, led by Moeen Ali's 108, had bailed the side out from their latest top-order collapse that saw them slump to 74 for four and 110 for five after captain Alastair Cook had won the toss.

Azhar, promoted to open after his century during England's 141-run win in the third Test at Edgbaston, and nightwatchman Yasir Shah were both nought not out.

Azhar pushed James Anderson through the covers for four and Shah hid two good fours, through cover and long-on, off Stuart Broad.

Chris Woakes was denied his customary wicket in the first over of a spell when Shah, on 21, edged the all-rounder to gully only for Alex Hales to drop the two-handed catch.

But having done his nightwatchman duty by getting through the first hour, Shah fell for 26 when he nicked fast bowler Steven Finn to second slip, where Joe Root held a juggling catch that ended a stand of 49 and left Pakistan 52 for two.

Shafiq, promoted up the order despite a pair at Edgbaston, avoided a third straight nought by getting off the mark with a cover-driven four off Finn.

England had to re-arrange their cordon after James Vince, usually at third slip for the quicks, was unable to field close in after suffering a finger injury trying to take a catch at Edgbaston.

Hampshire batsman Vince, still playing at The Oval but stationed away from the bat, saw his place at third slip taken by Anderson when England's all-time leading wicket-taker wasn't bowling.

Poor close catching had mainly been a Pakistan problem this series but Woakes was again denied a wicket when a diving Anderson at third slip dropped Shafiq on seven.

Azhar, on 35, was then given a reprieve when he pushed a drive back at Finn only for the 6ft 7in bowler to drop the low chance despite getting both hands to the ball, with Pakistan then 91 for two.

With blue and sunny skies, allied to a good pitch, offering some of the best batting conditions of the series, it was a miss England could ill afford.

Flags above The Oval pavilion flew at half-mast in honour of legendary Pakistan batsman Hanif Mohammad, who died aged 81 on Thursday.

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England 204
West Indies 306/8 (99.2 ov)
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