Northamptonshire 259 and 240 for 5 (Newton 102*) lead Pakistan 428 (Shafiq 186*, Sohail 79, Babar 57, Crook 4-89, Keogh 4-111) by 71 runs
Any thoughts of Pakistan wrapping up an early win and heading to Ireland ahead of schedule were shelved on the third afternoon at Northampton as Rob Newton made his 13th first-class century under cloudless skies to ensure the tourists will get a full workout from their second tour match before Friday’s Test match against Ireland.
It is probably a good thing that Newton led Northamptonshire through 70 overs until the close, still with five wickets in hand going into the final day. Pakistan are now likely to get significant further batting time tomorrow. Azhar Ali in particular could use it after making 15 and 9 on tour so far.
Their bowlers may have thought this was the UAE and not England in May after being blunted for much of a hot, still afternoon on a slow wicket with Newton leading the resistance. Northants began their second innings 169 behind after Asad Shafiq extended his overnight 135 to 186 not out, with the help of No. 11 Rahat Ali in a stand of 56 for the tenth wicket.
Newton, stand-in captain for the game with Alex Wakely ruled out with food poisoning, was struck on the little finger of his right hand by Mohammad Abbas before lunch but worked the seamers – who again were inconsistent – around cleverly and found a better plan to play Shadab Khan‘s legspin that had torn through Northants on the opening day.
Shadab still found some big-turning legbreaks but, with his mystery eroded and the wicket playing slower and lower, he was largely nullified. His only successes came through two batting errors. Richard Levi was seriously perturbed by movement to the side of the sightscreen, angrily hammered Rahat Ali through mid-off before aiming a slog-sweep at Shadab and was bowled. Later Josh Cobb seemingly lost concentration after a patient 94 fifth-wicket stand with Newton as he walked across his stumps, paddle-swept, missed and had his middle stump knocked back. A bizarre dismissal when he and Newton looked to be seeing out the day.
Newton did not suffer such brain-fades and chose his moments carefully to attack Shadab who remained the most threatening bowler with no help available for the seamers. There were only two nervous moments for Newton, a flashing edge past third slip before lunch as Mohammad Amir – so far wicketless in the game – got a delivery to zip across the right-hander and a lofted drive against Shadab that just cleared mid-off running back.
Newton was quick to seize on anything short from the spinners and pulled Shadab through midwicket to move into the 90s before a flick through midwicket off Amir raised his century in 180 balls with 11 fours three overs from the close.
His partnership with Cobb and a 56 fourth-wicket stand with Adam Rossington – who went breezily to 42 before slapping Abbas to point – revived Northants from 57 for 3, still 112 behind, when the Pakistan tour manager was finding his travel agent’s phone number to book an early arrival in Dublin.
Ben Duckett tried to pulled Rahat and was strangled down the leg side. The same bowler trapped Luke Procter lbw as he fell over a full, straight delivery before Levi’s swipe at Shadab. But Newton’s resistance ensured there was no easy way out of Northampton for Pakistan.
That is no bad thing with a chance for more players to gain form on day four to take over the Irish Sea. Shafiq already has some in the bank having seized his chance yesterday and on the third morning extended his innings with strokes unlikely to be needed in Malahide. He skipped down to Rob Keogh to slap wide of long-on to pass 150 before, left with No. 11 for company, clearing his front leg to swing three sixes over the leg side, one of which cleared the perimeter wall of the ground.