SOUTHAMPTON: Play in the fifth and final day of the second Test between England and Pakistan in Southampton on Monday is set to get under way at 3:20 pm local time (1420 GMT) after a match plagued by bad weather was interrupted by another rain delay.
Only 96.2 overs have been bowled so far in a Test that has long appeared destined for a draw, with England 7-1 in reply to Pakistan’s first innings 236.
But following Monday’s fifth inspection by umpires Michael Gough and Richard Kettleborough, it was announced the match would restart with a minimum 56 overs to be bowled.
The last hour will commence at 6:00 pm (1700 GMT) or after 41 overs, whichever is the later.
‘Not a reason to walk off’
While the umpires have faced widespread criticism for their strict interpretation of the rules regarding both rain and bad light even on a ground where the floodlights have been in use — former England captain Nasser Hussain told Sky Sports “merely because conditions are not ideal is not a reason to walk off the field” — there was little they could do about an early morning downpour Monday that saturated the Ageas Bowl’s outfield.
But there was noticeably more activity by both the officials and groundstaff on Monday in a match where so many standard rules and regulations have been abandoned to create a ‘bio-secure’ bubble that sees both teams staying in onsite hotels and not allowed to use saliva to shine the ball as they try to guard against the threat of the coronavirus.
Pakistan struck with just the fourth ball of England’s reply on Sunday when left-arm quick Shaheen Afridi had Rory Burns caught at second slip for a duck with a fine delivery that swung and seamed.
Dom Sibley (two not out) and Zak Crawley (five not out), recalled in place of Ben Stokes after the all-rounder withdrew to be with his ill father in New Zealand, both struggled against Afridi and the accurate Mohammad Abbas in overcast, bowler-friendly conditions, before the umpires took the players off the field.
Predictably, the Ageas Bowl, the headquarters of south coast county Hampshire, was bathed in sunshine soon after it was announced play had been abandoned for the day at 3:51 pm (1451 GMT).
Pakistan were indebted to wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan, who top-scored with 72 and shepherded the tail past 200 after Abid Ali (60) and Babar Azam (47) had made useful runs in tough conditions.
Rizwan batted for three and three-quarter hours across four days, facing 139 balls with seven boundaries during his second fifty in eight career Tests following the 95 he made against Australia in Brisbane in November.
Stuart Broad led England’s attack with 4-56, a return that took the in-form paceman’s tally in four Tests this season to 26 wickets at a miserly average of 12.38.
England are 1-0 up in a three-match series after a three-wicket win in the first Test at Old Trafford earlier this month.
The third Test, also at Southampton, starts on Friday.