Ahmed puts England on brink of memorable 3-0 win in Pakistan
KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Legspinner Rehan Ahmed became the youngest men’s test cricketer to claim a five-wicket haul on his debut and put England on the brink of a historic 3-0 sweep in its first test tour to Pakistan in 17 years.
Pakistan’s batters crumbled for 216 in the second innings of the third and final test as the 18-year-old Ahmed grabbed 5-48 and Jack Leach (3-72) claimed all three of his wickets in the space of six deliveries on Day 3 to leave England a modest target of 167 runs.
Ben Duckett (50 not out) and Zak Crawley (41) motored England to 112-2 by stumps with their aggressive “Bazball” brand of batting — named after their coach Brendon McCullum.
England needs a further 55 runs to register its second successive win inside four days following its thrilling 26-run victory at Multan last week. England won the first test by 74 runs in dimming light on the last day on a flat wicket in Rawalpindi.
“I just try to enjoy it as much as I could,” said Ahmed, who became the youngest England cricketer to make his debut at the age of 18 years, 126 days. “This feels like the happiest day of my life ... I still don’t think it has sunk in yet, but yes I am very, very grateful.”
Crawley and Duckett plundered 87 runs off 69 balls before mystery spinner Abrar Ahmed grabbed two late wickets. Crawley was adjudged leg before wicket while attempting a sweep and Rehan Ahmed (10), promoted up the order, smacked two boundaries before he swiped and got clean bowled.
Harry Brook’s third successive century had given England a 50-run first innings lead when it replied with 354 after dismissing Pakistan for 304, with Ahmed and Leach sharing six wickets between them.
Pakistan, staring at its first ever 3-0 whitewash at home, lost the last seven wickets for 52 runs in the second innings as Ahmed stifled the middle-order with his sharp googlies and legspin.
Captain Babar Azam (54) hit his third half century in the last four innings and Saud Shakeel (53) made his fourth fifty in his debut series before Ahmed left the lower order clueless on a wicket which has a variable bounce and slow turn from Day 1.
Babar and Shakeel had rebuilt Pakistan’s hopes with a 110-run stand before both fell late in the second session to Ahmed.
“I have let down my team and couldn’t convert fifties into big hundreds for four times in the series,” Shakeel said. “We lost back to back wickets twice in a day and we accept our mistakes. We should have set them a much stiffer target.”
Babar became the fourth test player to complete 1,000 runs this year, but played an overambitious pull against Ahmed’s short ball soon after completing his half century and Ollie Pope held a sharp catch at short mid-wicket.
Ahmed then picked up the wickets of Mohammad Rizwan (7) and Shakeel in successive overs to seize complete control as Pakistan reached 177-6 at tea before Ahmed quickly wrapped up the tail.
Shakeel followed up his three previous half centuries in his maiden test series with another defiant fifty before he top-edged a sweep against Ahmed and was caught by Leach at square leg.
Babar and Shakeel had defied spin and pace for 2 hours, 45 minutes after Leach’s triple strike had reduced Pakistan to 54-3.
Pakistan was ahead by just three runs when the top order crashed against Leach on a wicket where spinners have dominated.
Former captain Azhar Ali had a disappointing end to his 97-test career as the 37-year-old fell without scoring in his last innings when Leach knocked back his off stump with a sharp turning delivery.
England players applauded and shook hands with Azhar before he took the final guard with his wife and two sons among a sparse crowd at the National Stadium.
But Azhar lasted for only four balls against his former Somerset teammate Leach before the England players again shook hands with him for one last time.
Azhar was accorded a guard of honor by his teammates on the edge of the boundary line as he slowly walked back into the dressing room.
Resuming on 21-0, Shan Masood (24) started promisingly, smashing Joe Root for three boundaries and a six before the offspinner was taken out of the attack after two overs.
Abdullah Shafique wiped off the 50-run deficit with a pulled boundary against Mark Wood’s 140 kph bouncer before Leach struck thrice without conceding a run.
The left-handed Masood was bowled playing an extravagant reverse sweep as the ball clipped the bottom edge of his bat before hitting leg stump.
Four balls later, Leach sent Azhar packing and then pinned Shafique (26) plumb lbw on the front foot to leave Pakistan on the mat.
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