LONDON: Asad Shafiq put the disappointment of a pair last time out behind him with a stylish unbeaten half-century as Pakistan made inroads into England´s first-innings lead in the fourth Test at The Oval.
Utv Pakistan Report
Pakistan were 196 for three in reply to England´s 328 at tea on Friday´s second day, a deficit of 132 runs, as they battled to square the four-match series at 2-2.
Shafiq was 79 not and Younis Khan 26 not out, their unbroken stand so far worth 69 runs.
Shafiq, dropped on seven, had twice been out for nought during England´s 141-run win in the third Test at Edgbaston last week.
Pakistan resumed on three for one following the loss of opener Sami Aslam late on Thursday after England´s middle-order, led by Moeen Ali´s 108, had bailed the side out from their latest top-order collapse after captain Alastair Cook had won the toss.
Azhar, promoted to open after his century at Edgbaston, and nightwatchman Yasir Shah were both nought not out.
Chris Woakes was denied his customary wicket in the first over of a spell when Shah, on 21, edged the all-rounder to gully only for Alex Hales to drop the two-handed catch.
But having done his nightwatchman duty by getting through the first hour, Shah fell for 26 when he nicked fast bowler Steven Finn to second slip, where Joe Root held a juggling catch that ended a stand of 49 and left Pakistan 52 for two.
Poor close catching had mainly been a Pakistan problem this series but Woakes was twice denied a wicket when a diving Anderson at third slip dropped Shafiq on seven — the hardest of all the three chances England had missed come tea.
Azhar, on 35, was then given a reprieve when he pushed a drive back at Finn only for the 6ft 7in bowler to drop the low chance despite getting both hands to the ball, with Pakistan then 91 for two.
With blue and sunny skies, allied to a good pitch, offering some of the best batting conditions of the series, it was a miss England could ill afford.
Pakistan were 97 for two at lunch, with Azhar 36 not out and Shafiq unbeaten on 24.
Shafiq lofted Ali for six over long-on but Azhar fell one shy of a fifty when he gloved an attempted sweep against the off-spinner and was caught behind by wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow, although it needed a review to confirm the dismissal.
Azhar faced 113 balls, including nine fours, and added 75 for the third wicket with Shafiq.
But Shafiq did get to fifty, in 75 balls, when he expertly late cut Ali for the seventh four of his innings.