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England frustrated by rain and bad light on day four against Pakistan batsmen in search of victory

He will not be left hanging on 599 wickets on Tuesday night will he? Not with a winter of uncertainty ahead of an England side who are not sure when they will play their next Test match?

It could happen to Jimmy Anderson if the heavy rain that is forecast for Tuesday morning washes out the bulk of the last day of the final Test. And that would qualify for the dampest of all damp squibs at the end of what has been a triumphant summer against all odds.

How agonising for Anderson and how miserable the last two Tests have become in what is usually one of the driest corners of England. The Ageas Bowl has waited all this time to add to their three Tests and then two of this year’s three are all but destroyed.

It should never, of course, have come to this. Anderson should never have been facing a race against time to reach an incredible landmark in a career of high achievement.

England’s record wicket-taker would have been celebrating his 600th victim well before now despite all the grim weather that has been thrown at Southampton if only his team-mates had been able to hold their catches.

Three went down off Anderson in 10 balls on Sunday and they were at it again on Monday when Jos Buttler, who had kept so well in taking three catches on day three, could not even get a glove on a regulation chance early on day four.

Shan Masood has already lost eight lives to Anderson in Test cricket and he should have used up his ninth when he edged him through to Buttler on three only for the keeper to be deceived by a slight wobble after the ball had gone past the batsman.

It was the fourth regulation chance to go down off Anderson in just 37 balls, a sad reflection of woeful fielding that could not only keep their attack leader waiting for his milestone but could also now cost England a 2-0 series victory.

At least Anderson was able to take one of the two wickets he needed ahead of day four when play was possible as Pakistan batted with admirable discipline and application on a day they could have been forgiven for showing neither to reach 100 for two following on.

Anderson was into his third spell of the day and the ball had just started to reverse swing when Abid Ali was trapped lbw to become victim No 599, the outstanding Michael Gough’s positive decision only just being upheld by technology.

The same was true when Masood earlier played no stroke at Stuart Broad and was perhaps unlucky to see the raised finger of an umpire in Gough who has had as good a summer as any other Englishman given the rare chance to stand in his home country. It was the closest Gough has come all summer to making an actual mistake.

They were England’s only successes of a day when their bowlers failed to impress on the sort of flat pitch they will encounter overseas and on which they are supposed to be learning how to become an attack for all conditions.

Anderson and Broad could largely be absolved of blame but this is where England need a point of difference and they could not find one on Monday from their fastest bowler in Jofra Archer nor their spinner in Dom Bess.

Archer bowled extremely well without luck on Sunday but on Monday he could not make an impression on Abid nor Pakistan captain Azhar Ali even though he tried to be the enforcer England had urged him to be before this Test.

Instead that role eventually went to Broad, who went round the wicket and started banging the ball into the lifeless surface in an attempt to not only unsettle Pakistan but also gain that elusive reverse swing.

The biggest disappointment was Bess who has finally been handed a decent bowl in this game but has not been able to make the most of it, not even when Broad tried to create some rough for him to work with. He could really do with some wickets on Tuesday.

And Chris Woakes has looked tired and largely ineffectual on this type of pitch, making England’s decision to leave Mark Wood out here and give him only one Test in a summer when they were supposed to be rotating their attack appear myopic.

A dismal day four ended with the sight of the umpires taking the teams off for bad light even though England had employed an all-spin attack under floodlights, which hardly constitutes dangerous conditions. But to be fair to Gough and Richard Illingworth heavy rain soon returned and was forecast to fall for most of the night in Hampshire.

And if that means Anderson will not have time to take that one wicket England really will have cause to kick themselves. If Jimmy doesn’t kick them first.

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