England's Anderson closes on 600 Test wickets as rain aids Pakistan

Southampton (United Kingdom) (AFP) –

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England great James Anderson moved to within three wickets of becoming the first paceman to take 600 in Tests on a rain-marred morning against Pakistan at Southampton on Sunday.

Pakistan had slumped to 41-4 in reply to England's mammoth first innings 583-8 declared, a deficit of 542 runs, when rain stopped play at 1114 GMT and led to an early lunch on the third day of the third Test.

Anderson, 38, had done all the damage in a superb return of 4-21 in 11 overs.

The only bowlers with more Test wickets than the Lancashire swing specialist's haul of 596 are three retired spinners -- Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan (800), Australia's Shane Warne (708) and India's Anil Kumble (619).

England, pressing for their first series win over Pakistan in a decade at 1-0 up in a match campaign, resumed in total command after Anderson had reduced the tourists to 24-3 on Saturday.

Even though they slumped to 11-2, Pakistan opted against a nightwatchman only for Anderson to have star batsman Babar Azam lbw for 11 with what turned out to be the last ball of Saturday's play.

New batsman Asad Shafiq's low run of scores continued as Anderson struck again on Sunday when the right-hander, on five, limply hung his bat outside off stump and edged to England captain Joe Root at first slip.

Pakistan were now 30-4, but almost as soon as Shafiq been dismissed rain stopped play for 25 minutes.

The players briefly got back on the field before fresh rain led to another stoppage in a match that, in common with all internationals in England this season, is being played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pakistan captain Azhar Ali was 10 not out and Fawad Alam, whose near 11-year wait for a Test recall ended with a four-ball duck in the weather-interrupted drawn second Test at Southampton, was unbeaten on five.

England's huge total was built on a national record fifth-wicket stand of 359 between Zak Crawley and Jos Buttler.

Crawley's 267, the 22-year-old Kent rising star's maiden Test century, was the tenth highest score by any England batsman at this level, while wicketkeeper Buttler's 152 was just his second hundred in 47 Tests.