England are beginning to sense a shot at victory after a much-improved performance on day three of the third Investec Test at Edgbaston.
Chris Woakes predicted plenty of hard work still lies ahead after England turned round their fortunes.
After two flat days for the hosts, they took Pakistan’s last seven wickets for 143 runs and then reached stumps on 120 without loss themselves in their second innings.
Woakes, who began the resurgence with the wicket of Pakistan centurion Azhar Ali with the final delivery of the previous evening, believes captain Alastair Cook and Alex Hales’s first three-figure opening stand has given England reason for cautious optimism.
Cook closed on an unbeaten 64, and Hales completed his half-century from the last ball of the day to leave England 17 runs in front after they had bowled the tourists out for 400 despite 56 from their captain Misbah-ul-Haq.
It was England’s response with the bat which was most telling.
Woakes said: “It’s massive, obviously a really important partnership – not only for us as a team but the two of them as an opening stand as well.
“Going into that innings, we were behind the eight ball – 100 runs behind in any game is quite a decent margin.
“For them to cancel that deficit out the way they have, looking pretty solid and not like giving any chances, was crucial.
“It puts us in a really strong position going into tomorrow,” he added.
Woakes, who shared six wickets with Stuart Broad, is not getting too excited just yet.
“Looking too far ahead would probably be silly of us – we’re only 17 runs ahead,” he added.
“But it gives us a great chance of setting up a Test match.
“If the boys can get through the tricky period in the morning, we hope we can kick on and get a good lead ... with enough time to bowl them out.
“With a sunny day tomorrow, we hope a few cracks might appear – which would benefit us in the back-end of the game.”
England are unlikely to take too many chances, however, in a series poised at 1-1.
“We feel we’ve got ourselves back in the Test match,” said Woakes.
“There’s still a lot of hard work to do, but it’s great we’ve given ourselves that opportunity.
“We’ve got to come out tomorrow and back that up,” he added.
Cook put down a straightforward slip catch, which was not costly, to reprieve number 11 Rahat Ali – but it was no surprise England’s all-time leading runscorer did not let that put him off when his turn came to bat.
“He always does [lead from the front], and always has,” said Woakes.
“Opening the batting is such a crucial part of the team doing well in Test cricket.
“He’s so mentally strong, as we’ve seen over the years, that a dropped catch isn’t really going to affect him too much – whether that be his captaincy or his batting.”
England might also conceivably have been distracted when James Anderson was excluded from their attack for the final 11 overs of Pakistan’s innings after being warned for running on the pitch for a third time.
Woakes said: “He’s obviously striving hard for the team, and trying to bowl as well as he can.
“It’s just unfortunate. The umpires thought he was running on, and I suppose stuck to their guns.
“But it didn’t hurt us too much as a team – we had them eight down at the time.
“It’s been a great day for us.”
Anderson will face no further action either following his apology at stumps on Thursday for what he admitted was ‘unacceptable’ behaviour towards the umpires when he was first warned for treading in the danger area in his follow-through.
Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur, meanwhile, has lamented the absence of an all-rounder like Woakes in the tourists’ ranks.
“We lack an all-rounder – we lack a Chris Woakes,” he said.
“We’ve got to pick our six best batsmen – [wicketkeeper] Sarfraz (Ahmed) is very good at number seven, and then we’ve got to pick our best bowling attack.
“To win Test matches ... you’ve got to take 20 wickets.”