Chris Woakes said it was no surprise to see fellow all-rounder Ben Stokes drag England back into the first Test against Pakistan at Old Trafford on Friday as “we know he is capable of miracles”.
Stokes who didn’t bowl in the third Test against the West Indies at Old Trafford last month because of a quad injury, took 2-11 in 21 balls late on the third day as Pakistan reached stumps on 137-8 in their second innings — a lead of 244 runs.
England, outplayed for most of this match, now have a shot at claiming an unlikely victory after Stokes had Mohammad Rizwan lbw with just his eighth ball of the match before he bounced out tail-ender Shaheen Afridi.
Last year, Stokes starred with the ball before his stunning unbeaten century saw England to an outrageous one-wicket in the third Test against Australia at Headingley.
And Woakes, who also took 2-11 on Friday, said there was every chance the England vice-captain could repeat his Ashes heroics in Manchester.
“I’m not overly surprised that he could do what he did,” Woakes told reporters. “That’s Ben Stokes, we know he is capable of miracles.
“He’s got a bit of a golden arm, he always has had. He has the knack of picking up wickets.
“When you are in a bit of dogfight, he’s the sort of player you want in your team. He always puts his hand up and gives 110 per cent.”
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Pakistan will now hope leg-spinner Yasir Shah, who took 4-66 in England’s first-innings 219, can boost their total when he resumes on his overnight 12 not out.
The tourists are still relatively well-placed.
Only twice has a team chased more than 200 to win in the fourth innings of a Test at Old Trafford, with England making 294-4 against New Zealand in 2008 and 231-3 against the West Indies at the Manchester ground in 2004.
England are trying to end a run of losing the first Test in each of their last five series.
And they will need to bat well on a wearing pitch where Yasir took three for four in 27 balls on Friday to leave England over a hundred runs behind Pakistan’s first-innings 326.
“We are very confident, the lead is 244 at the moment,” said Pakistan spin-bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed.
“If we can get another 20 to 30 runs that will be a very good score on that pitch.”
Earlier, Shan Masood — who made a Test-best 156 in Pakistan’s first innings — was out for a duck when caught behind down the legside off a poor Stuart Broad delivery.
Woakes reduced Pakistan to 63-4, having Babar Azam caught in the slips by Stokes before Pakistan captain Azhar Ali, out for a duck in the first innings, was lbw for 18 to the in-form paceman.
Wicketkeeper Rizwan, far more impressive behind the stumps than England counterpart Jos Buttler, batted well in a stand of 38 with Asad Shafiq, until Shafiq was run out by Dom Sibley’s direct hit.
England resumed Friday on 92-4, having collapsed to 12-3.
Ollie Pope was 46 not out and Buttler 15 not out.
Buttler, with just one hundred from his previous 44 Tests, was under pressure to score runs after costly mistakes behind the stumps.
He dropped Masood on 45 and then missed a chance to stump him on the same score — errors that intensified the debate about the World Cup-winner’s Test place.
Pope completed a composed 81-ball fifty.
But there was little he could do when, on 62, a Naseem Shah delivery that lept off a good length to take the shoulder of his bat was caught in the gully by Shadab Khan.
England suffered a fresh collapse after lunch, losing their last five wickets for 60 runs in a sequence that started when Yasir bowled Buttler for 38.