BIRMINGHAM: Joe Root praised a “brilliant” batting display by Jonny Bairstow as England took charge of the third Test against Pakistan at Edgbaston on Saturday.
The two Yorkshiremen made contrasting fifties in an England second-innings total of 414 for five come stumps on the fourth day.
Bairstow was 82 not out and Moeen Ali 60 not out, with England leading by 311 runs.
The highest fourth-innings score to win a Test at Edgbaston is South Africa’s 283 for five in 2008.
England captain Alastair Cook refused to enforce the follow-on despite a first-innings lead of 391 in the second Test at Old Trafford.
He was eventually vindicated by a 330-run win as England drew level at 1-1 after Pakistan’s 75-run victory in the series opener at Lord’s.
Whether Cook will declare on England’s overnight score, with the fourth and final Test of the series at The Oval starting on Thursday, remains to be seen.
But that England are in a position to press for a 2-1 lead at all owed much to Bairstow’s latest counter-attacking knock since his return to Test duty at Edgbaston during last year’s Ashes triumph.
England started Saturday on 120 for none but soon lost openers Cook (66) and Alex Hales (54).
Root (62) and James Vince (42) kept Pakistan at bay with a stand of 95 before Bairstow and Ali cashed in against a tiring four-man attack.
“The way we applied ourselves throughout this whole innings has been a magnificent effort,” said Root.
“It started off last night really, with the way Halesy and Cooky took the initiative and built that platform.
“It would have been very easy, if we’d lost a couple of wickets then, to feel under pressure going into today.
“We had to absorb a little bit of pressure this morning, me and Vincey to get through that was really important…With any four-man attack, that’s what you look to do take it deep.”
“Then the way Jonny and Moeen played tonight was fantastic.”
As for Bairstow’s recent England form, Root said: “I think the way he has applied himself to Test cricket over the last 18 months has been great.”
As for when England might declare, vice-captain Root said: “I’m sure Cookie will want a night to mull it over…But we’ve just got to rock up tomorrow with the right mentality to take 10 wickets.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed remained confident the tourists could still save the game.
“When you’re in, it’s a flat pitch … and you can see there’s nothing happening,” he said.
The former Pakistan leg-spinner lamented the dropped catch by first slip Mohammad Hafeez that gave Root, then on 25, a reprieve in the midst of a superb spell by luckless left-arm quick Rahat Ali.
“We were actually one wicket away from the game when we dropped Joe Root, Rahat Ali was bowling beautifully.
However, he added: “Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali played brilliantly. They took the game away.”