Not enforcing follow-on could still cost hosts England in Pakistan Test
Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur admits England's decision not to enforce the follow-on during the third day of the second Test has given his side a better chance of escaping from the match with a draw.
England opted against forcing Pakistan to bat again despite establishing a first-innings lead of 391 after dismissing the tourists for 198.
That call prompted criticism on social media and from commentators, who derided it as overly conservative on a day which saw 27 overs lost to the Manchester weather despite the fact England still ended it 489 runs ahead on 97 for one.
Paul Farbrace, England's assistant coach, later defended the decision, insisting the hosts saw it as the best way to win the match and level the series at following last week's 75-run defeat in the first Test at Lord's.
But Arthur, when asked if he thought his team now had a better chance of fighting out a draw over the remaining two days of this match, said: "Probably yes - it gives us a better chance. That's certainly not an inflammatory headline at all because irrespective of when Alastair declares we are going to have to bat damn well."
Farbrace confirmed England's decision was arrived at through consultation between Cook and coach Trevor Bayliss.
He said: "We're happy with the decision - you get on and back it up. It's up to us to prove we got it right.
"We're in the driving seat, have played some excellent cricket over the three days and we think by keeping them under pressure we will dominate.
"There's no point risking putting ourselves under pressure later in the game."
Former England captain Michael Vaughan said he was "absolutely staggered" by Cook's decision to bat again.
"They were 391 runs ahead - 391 runs! Win the game today - why delay it?" he said.
Only two teams have won a Test after following on, with Australia beaten by England in 1894 and 1981 and by India in 2001.
Former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott said: "If England had enforced the follow-on, it would have been perfect because they've been on and off and the bowlers would have had a rest."
There appears only one outcome after England's bowlers capitalised on the scoreboard pressure created by their batsmen, led by double centurion Joe Root, over the first two days to hustle out Pakistan for 198 and establish a first-innings lead of 391.
England will go on the attack when they resume their second innings on 97 for one, Cook well placed on 49 and first-innings hero Root alongside him unbeaten on 19.
However, when the hosts turned up on the third morning they would have had hopes of perhaps finishing off this game on the day.
The tourists had collapsed to 57 for four, still 532 runs behind, and the outlook for their chances looked gloomier than the leaden Manchester skies that prompted a 59-minute rain stoppage.
Given the favourable conditions, it was no surprise England's bowlers took four wickets in that interrupted morning session to send Pakistan into lunch on 119 for eight.
Anderson made the first breakthrough in the fifth over of the day, opener Shan Masood adding nine to his overnight score of 30 before fending the leader of England's attack to Root at second slip.
The showers then came with Pakistan 71 for five. When play resumed, Stuart Broad, tempting Asad Shafiq into a reckless drive to point, grabbed the sixth Pakistan wicket. They had just 76 on the board at the time.
Stokes removed Sarfraz Ahmed and Chris Woakes Yasir Shah, both caught by Root at second slip. However, captain Misbah-ul-Haq and Wahab Riaz offered some resistance, the ninth-wicket pair frustrating England for 15 overs, compiling a 60-run stand.
Both eventually fell to the spin of Moeen Ali as the innings was wrapped up - all 10 dismissals by England caught for the first time in a home Test since 1972.
Then came the decision not to enforce the follow-on - and the subsequent rain that saw criticism of that move increase. Rain interrupted England's second innings on three separate occasions - the first coming just 2.4 overs in and with just 11 runs on the board.
When England did manage to get back on there was enough time for the hosts to progress their total beyond 50 before more showers just after 6.15pm forced the players off for a fourth time in the day.
There was still time for one more mini-session encompassing 8.4 overs and that allowed enough time for Pakistan to at least dismiss Hales on 24.
It was, though, a pyrrhic victory for the tourists, who will require divine intervention from the weather gods if they are to escape Manchester with their 1-0 series lead intact.