Sohail Khan has made a devastating return to Test cricket, knocking over four of England’s top-order to put Pakistan on top at tea on day one of the third Test at Edgbaston. England have been wrapped up for 297 – not the worst effort, by any means, but not so intimidating, either. Fifties from Gary Ballance and Moeen Ali gave the scorecard some fibre after the top three fell before lunch, but Pakistan kept at to work their way through the order; Sohail Khan finished with 5 for 96.
Picked in place of Wahab Riaz for his first Test in nearly five years, Sohail tore through the hosts and claimed the vital wicket of second Test double-century maker Joe Root, as England went into tea at 5-184.
The 32-year-old had 4-61 from 16 overs at the break, claiming all but one of the five England wickets to fall in the first two sessions.
Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq, armed with the knowledge that no team has won batting first at Edgbaston since Australia famously lost when Ricky Ponting opted to bowl at this ground in the 2005 Ashes, won the toss and sent England earlier this morning.
With some grey clouds hovering over Birmingham, openers Cook and Hales got off to a strong start. Cook was particularly pleasing on the eye with an array of cuts and drives to have England motoring along in the first session.
But Sohail, who came into this match with a solitary Test wicket at the unflattering average of 245, broke through in the 10th over when Hales (17) edged an excellent out-swinger to wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed.
Root, fresh off his 245 at Old Trafford, lasted just six balls as he nicked a back-foot punch off Sohail to Mohammad Hafeez at first-slip not long after.
And when Rahat Ali claimed the scalp of Cook for a brisk 45 before lunch, the hosts’ two most prolific batsmen were back in the sheds with their side still 25 runs short of 100.
It presented a golden opportunity for James Vince and Gary Balance, a pair that Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur suggested were “playing for their Test places” in the lead-up to this match, to prove their mettle.
The embattled duo, neither of whom passed 50 in the first two Tests, put on 69 either side of lunch and both looked assured against an often-wayward Pakistan bowling-attack.
It was Sohail who yet again produced a decisive blow, as he found the edge of a defending Vince and Younis Khan claimed the catch at second-slip.
While the England No.4 stood his ground, Vince had to depart for 39 with replays showing the ball to have clearly carried to the Pakistan veteran.
Sohail, a bustling right-armer whose dead-straight approach to the crease takes him within inches of shoulder charging the umpire, then snared his fourth wicket for the innings as Jonny Bairstow (12) edged a cut behind to Sarfraz.
England were once again reeling, this time at 5-158.
The cautious Gary Ballance is one run away from notching a much-needed – for both his and England’s sake – half-century. It would be his first since returning to the Test side.
Moeen Ali, back at No.7 with injured allrounder Ben Stokes making way for fast-bowler Steven Finn for this Test, withstood a Pakistan bowling attack operating with greater discipline towards the end of the second session.