England bowlers toil as Babar Azam’s century guides Pakistan to 411 at tea

Babar Azam scored a masterful century and guided Pakistan to 411 for three at tea as the England bowlers toiled without a breakthrough in the afternoon session on day three in Rawalpindi.

England had made key inroads into the Pakistan batting line-up in the morning, with Jack Leach taking two wickets, but there was little on offer after the lunch break.

Pakistan captain Babar played an elegant innings to become the seventh centurion of the Test with an unbeaten 106 at tea to the delight of an almost-full stadium.

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Ben Stokes continued to tinker with the field and his bowling options, including an unorthodox packing of the offside with catchers to James Anderson, but Pakistan continued to edge closer to England’s first-innings total of 657.

However, Stokes is still without one of his bowling options after Liam Livingstone continued to remain off the field with a right knee issue that saw him replaced by substitute Keaton Jennings on Friday.

Before lunch England had worked hard in the first hour for little reward, but claimed three wickets, all to spin.

Leach’s wicket just before the interval briefly threatened to shift momentum, but the tourists were unable to capitalise in the afternoon.

Jack Leach, right, took two wickets
Jack Leach, right, took two wickets (Anjum Naveed/AP)

After resuming on 181 without loss, both openers brought up their centuries, with the Test becoming the first in history where both opening stands have been over 100, and all four departed having scored centuries.

Abdullah Shafique was the first to bring up his century for the hosts, which came from 177 deliveries, as Pakistan continued in the same manner as they finished the second day.

It was Abdullah’s third century in only his eighth Test match, all of which have come in the subcontinent.

Imam-ul-Haq followed up his teammate by bringing up his own ton shortly afterwards, from 180 balls, his third century at the ground in Rawalpindi.