Rain causes fresh delay to England-Pakistan second Test
Umpires Richard Kettleborough (L), Michael Gough (2nd L) and reserve umpire Martin Saggers (C) carry out a further inspection as the start of play is delayed on the fifth day of the second Test. AFP
Rain meant there was no play before lunch on Monday's fifth and final day of the second Test between England and Pakistan at Southampton -- the latest interruption to a fixture repeatedly plagued by bad weather.
Only 96.2 overs have been bowled so far in a Test that has long appeared destined for a draw, with England 7-1 in reply to Pakistan's first innings 236.
While the umpires have faced widespread criticism for their strict interpretation of the rules regarding both rain and bad light even on a ground where the floodlights have been in use -- former England captain Nasser Hussain told Sky Sports "merely because conditions are not ideal is not a reason to walk off the field" -- there was little they could do about an early morning downpour Monday that saturated the outfield at the Ageas Bowl.
But there was noticeably more activity by both the officials and groundstaff than there had been on previous days, with a further inspection planned for 1:40 pm local time (1240 GMT).
A spokesman for the umpires said the bowlers' run-ups needed "further drying" before play could resume.
Pakistan struck with just the fourth ball of England's reply on Sunday when left-arm quick Shaheen Afridi had Rory Burns caught by Asad Shafiq at second slip for a duck with a fine delivery that swung and seamed.
Dom Sibley (two not out) and Zak Crawley (five not out), recalled in place of Ben Stokes after the all-rounder withdrew to be with his ill father in New Zealand, both struggled against Afridi and the accurate Mohammad Abbas in overcast, bowler-friendly conditions, before the umpires called a halt at 12:00 pm (1100 GMT). Play was finally abandoned for the day at 3:51 pm.
Predictably, the Ageas Bowl, the headquarters of south coast county Hampshire, was bathed in sunshine minutes after that decision was announced. Pakistan were indebted to Mohammad Rizwan, who top-scored with 72 and shepherded the tail when it looked like they might be dismissed for under 200.
He was eventually last man out after an innings that spanned four days. Rizwan batted for three and three-quarter hours, facing 139 balls with seven boundaries during his second fifty in eight career Tests following the 95 he made against Australia in Brisbane in November.
Abid Ali (60) and Babar Azam (47) also battled hard in difficult conditions. Stuart Broad led England's attack with 4-56 in 27.2 overs, a return that took the in-form paceman's tally in four Tests this season to 26 wickets at a miserly average of 12.38.
England lead a three-match series 1-0 after a three-wicket win in the first Test at Old Trafford earlier this month. The series ends with the third Test, also at Southampton, starting Friday.