Ballance and Moeen shine on tricky day

England batsman Moeen Ali walks past Steven Finn (right) after he was out for 63 to Pakistan bowler Mohammad Amir
England batsman Moeen Ali walks past Steven Finn (right) after he was out for 63 to Pakistan bowler Mohammad Amir

Gary Ballance and Moeen Ali kept England competitive on a taxing first day of the third Test against Pakistan at Edgbaston.

Ballance (70) dug in to defy Sohail Khan (five for 96) in half-century stands with James Vince and then Moeen (63) as England eked out a hard-working 297.

There were few thrills and spills as Ballance, with his first 50 in his last seven Test innings spread over more than a year, exercised plenty of caution.

The care he took over 150 deliveries, and almost three-and-a-half hours, spread to Moeen - who batted against his usually carefree instincts.

Ballance and Vince, each short of runs in the first two Tests, almost doubled the total in a fourth-wicket stand of 69 either side of lunch after the hosts hit early trouble against Sohail in his comeback match at this level.

Then Moeen passed his half-century with a pull off Rahat Ali for his fifth four from 99 balls to help ensure England did not fall too short after surprisingly being put in by Misbah-ul-Haq.

The Pakistan seamers provided vindication for their captain as the ball swung on a day of intermittent cloud cover, in a series locked at 1-1 with two to play.

Alex Hales did some of the necessary hard work before falling first, edging behind Sohail’s outswing, and then Joe Root could add only three runs to the welter he made at Old Trafford – playing a little loosely away from his body to be caught at slip off the same bowler.

Sohail’s previous two Tests, the last almost five years ago, had brought him a solitary wicket at the cost of 245 runs.

But he was far from flattered by success on his return.

Alastair Cook had a little early luck on his side, before Rahat won an lbw verdict with Cook five short of his 50.

Much therefore depended on Ballance and Vince, who fared well until the latter paid for revisiting his uncertainty outside off stump and edged Sohail low to second slip as he tried to take the bat away.

Jonny Bairstow went shortly afterwards.

England were reliant on Ballance, and he did not let them down. He eventually became Yasir Shah’s only victim, very well-caught by wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed.

There was little Chris Woakes could do with an exceptionally good ball from Rahat. But after Moeen had overturned a bat-pad catch on 44 off Yasir, Mohammad Amir struck immediately with the second new ball to dismiss Stuart Broad.

Amir also saw off Moeen and after Sohail completed his five-wicket haul by having James Anderson lbw, Pakistan had earned a marginal advantage.