England loses early wicket after dismissing Pakistan for 304

December 17, 2022 GMT
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Pakistan's Abrar Ahmed, front, celebrates after taking the wicket of England's Zak Crawley during the first day of third test cricket match between England and Pakistan, in Karachi, Pakistan, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)
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Pakistan's Abrar Ahmed, front, celebrates after taking the wicket of England's Zak Crawley during the first day of third test cricket match between England and Pakistan, in Karachi, Pakistan, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Spinner Jack Leach snared 4-140 and England’s youngest ever test debutant Rehan Ahmed picked up two wickets to dismiss Pakistan for 304 in the third and final test on Saturday.

Pakistan hit back early through spinner Abrar Ahmed, who claimed Zak Crawley leg before wicket without scoring in his first over, and England finished the opening day at 7-1. Ben Duckett (4 not out) and Ollie Pope (3 not out) are at the crease.

Abrar had a terrific test debut when he grabbed 11-234 at Multan in the second test but Pakistan still lost that thrilling game by 26 runs inside four days.

Leach bowled an 11-over spell in Karachi with the new ball and Ahmed overcame his nervy first five overs to finish with 2-89.

Ahmed’s father, Naeem, was among a sparse crowd at the National Stadium and the proud dad was earlier in the England team’s huddle when former captain Nasser Hussain handed Ahmed his test cap before the toss.

“Probably the best moment, it’s great to be part of it,” Ahmed said as he posed with his arms around his father soon after getting his test cap. “They (teammates) backed me the whole day and I couldn’t ask for more. To play at such a young age is a blessing.”

At the age of 18 years, 126 days, Ahmed is 23 days younger than Brian Close, who made his test debut for England against New Zealand at Manchester in 1949.

Pakistan captain Babar Azam (78) and Agha Salman (56) hit composed half centuries for the hosts, but England always came back hard on another dry wicket which offered slow turn to both Leach and Ahmed.

Babar looked set for his second century of the series but couldn’t beat Harry Brook’s timely throw and good work by wicketkeeper Ben Foakes in the final session and was run out. Leach had Salman stumped off a delivery which spun sharply away from the righthander before wrapping up the innings.

“We could have done much better,” Pakistan head coach Saqlain Mushtaq said. “Babar’s dismissal came at a wrong time because we were looking at a total of around 350-375.

“We will now rely heavily on our spinners and try to restrict them with some controlled, intelligent cricket.”

Ahmed replaced James Anderson after England rested the 40-year-old seamer with an unassailable 2-0 lead while Foakes returned after missing the first test due to illness.

Ahmed dismissed Saud Shakeel (23) for his lowest score in the series when he had the lefthander caught close to the wicket by a diving Ollie Pope in his seventh over, but Babar continued to dominate the leg-spinner and took Pakistan to 204-5 by tea.

Ahmed then dried up the runs in the last session and also had Faheem Ashraf trapped lbw off a perfect googly from round the wicket.

England, looking for a rare 3-0 clean sweep in its first test tour to Pakistan in 17 years, had made early inroads after Babar won his first toss in the series and chose to bat.

Azhar Ali fell for 45 in his farewell test match at the stroke of lunch after Ollie Robinson’s short pitch delivery down the legside caught the gloves of the righthander. Azhar, who announced his retirement from test cricket on Friday, was snapped up by Foakes and the television replays confirmed it was a clean catch as Pakistan reached 117-3.

Azhar was recalled for his last test after being left out of the second test due to poor form. Azhar, playing in his 97th test, replaced allrounder Mohammad Nawaz.

England continued to experiment with its unconventional and aggressive style of play in test matches that saw the visitors win the first test by 74 runs at Rawalpindi on a flat wicket and also win a thriller in Multan.

England surprised Pakistan from the onset when Leach bowled for more than an hour with the new ball. Leach featured in the dismissals of both openers before Azhar and Babar showed plenty of aggression against Ahmed.

Babar shared a 71-run stand with Azhar and dominated spinners before Robinson broke the threatening stand just before the first session.

Lefthanded Shan Masood -- one of the four changes Pakistan made from the last test – scored a brisk 30 off 37 balls before he top-edged Mark Wood to fine leg midway into the first session.

Masood, replacing injured Imam-ul-Haq up in the order, showed early aggression when he hit Leach for two successive boundaries to the onside before Leach took a smart catch in the deep.

Leach had earlier struck in his second over when he had Abdullah Shafique trapped lbw for 8 in his third over with a new ball that skidded off the wicket and hit the batter on the front pad.

Leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood, who took 12 wickets in two test matches, was dropped and leftarm spinner Nauman Ali made his first appearance of the series.

Pakistan, already without its key fast bowlers for the series because of injuries, awarded a test debut to Mohammad Wasim. The 21-year-old fast bowler replaced seamer Mohammad Ali.

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