EDGBASTON: Sohail Khan marked his return to Test cricket after a five-year absence with four wickets as Pakistan reduced England to 184 for five at tea on the first day of the third Test at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
The 32-year-old right-arm quick removed a quartet of top-order batsman — Alex Hales, Joe Root, James Vince and Jonny Bairstow — on his way to tea figures of four for 61 in 16 overs.
It was a return made all the more impressive as Sohail’s previous two Tests — against Sri Lanka at Karachi in 2009 and against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo in 2011 — had yielded a combined haul of one for 245.
A stress fracture of the back after last year’s World Cup provided a further check on his progress.
Nevertheless, Sohail was recalled in place of Wahab Riaz as Pakistan broke up the all left-arm pace attack they had deployed for the first two Tests of this four-match contest following England’s 330-run series-levelling win at Old Trafford.
Sohail made the most of his chance after Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq won the toss and fielded on a gloomy morning, with some moisture still in the pitch after overnight rain.
An unconvincing Hales (17) fell when he was caught behind after edging a good-length Sohail ball.
Root had made a Test-best 254 at Old Trafford in a match where he and century-maker Alastair Cook, the England captain scored 506 runs between them for just twice out.
Misbah had described the pair as the “pillars” of an otherwise fragile-looking England top order.
Pakistan knocked down the first of those pillars when Root, playing one of his favourite back-foot forcing shots, edged Sohail and was held by sometimes fallible slip fielder Mohammad Hafeez for just three.
Sohail had taken two wickets for eight runs in nine balls and England were 48 for two.
Left-handed opener Cook, carrying on from where he left off in Manchester, made 45 in 52 balls, including eight fours.
But Rahat Ali had him lbw with a full-length ball that struck Cook on the front pad.
Cook reviewed, more in hope than expectation, but was duly given out to leave England 75 for three.
In seven Tests since England’s nailbiting two-run win over Australia in 2005 no team batting first had won a Test at Edgbaston.
Vince, yet to make a fifty in his seven previous Test innings, again flirted with danger outside off stump before guiding England to 100 for three at lunch.
The Hampshire captain cover-drove Mohammad Amir for four and flicked Sohail for a legside boundary.
But on 39, an uncertain defensive prod outside off stump against Sohail saw Vince edge low to second slip Younis Khan.
Vince stood his ground, but after the on-field umpires called in replay colleague Kumar Dharmasena it was clear the catch had been cleanly taken.
One small consolation for Vince was that at least on this occasion he had not been caught in the slips off a loose drive.
Bairstow had rescued England from many a dire position in recent Tests.
But he made just 12 before, trying to cut a sharply bouncing Sohail delivery, he was caught behind by opposing wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed.
Sohail had taken two for six in 10 balls, with England now 158 for five. – AFP