JIMMY ANDERSON is experiencing torture and frustration during the final few strides of his epic journey to 600 Test wickets.
Anderson will begin the final day of the Test match summer tantalisingly poised on 599 and, with rain forecast, who knows if and when he will reach the historic milestone.
He did snare one further scalp today but another dropped catch – making four in the space of 37 balls – and bad light prevented the great moment.
In the bigger picture of England trying to win the Third Test, they need eight more wickets with Pakistan still 210 runs behind.
In the evening session, Anderson had opener Abid Ali lbw for a patient 42 from 162 balls but his dreams of taking the big ‘un were halted when the umpires decided it was too gloomy for a quick bowler.
Spinners Dom Bess and Joe Root bowled four more overs before the players left the field for good.
Earlier in the day, Anderson had Shan Masood dropped by wicketkeeper Jos Buttler – a straightforward opportunity on which Buttler did not appear even to lay a glove.
The ball struck him on the inner thigh.
The four butter-fingered culprits were Rory Burns, Zak Crawley and Stuart Broad – they dropped catches on Sunday evening – and then Buttler.
All of the chances were easy, all difficult to understand.
Head coach Chris Silverwood said: “It was gloomy on Sunday evening but that’s not an excuse and Jos’ chance wobbled horribly on the way to him – we work very hard on our catching.
“I thought Jimmy handled himself well.
“He accepts that nobody means to drop a catch and, as frustrating as it is, he just has to get on with the next ball.
“He’s an inspiration and 600 Test wickets – wow.
“He’s worked so hard in his career and to have one of the world’s best in the dressing-room is amazing. I hope he gets over the line tomorrow.”
A deluge soaked the ground with Pakistan 41-0 and play was halted for three-and-a-half hours before a re-start at 3.45pm.
Masood was then lbw to Broad offering no shot.
A marginal decision by the normally-excellent Michael Gough and DRS showed the ball brushing Masood’s off stump.
But Pakistan were showing resilience.
Abid Ali was watchful and captain Azhar Ali, rejuvenated by his tremendous first innings century, looked in little difficulty.
The pitch was good and England were largely short of ideas.
Jofra Archer and Broad both had a crack at trying to unsettle the batsmen with short stuff but Anderson was, as usual, the most threatening and smart bowler.
He has skill and swing but he also has a brain, able to probe away at batsmen’s weak spots.
Ollie Pope was off the field for most of the day after wrenching the shoulder on which he had surgery last summer.
James Bracey, Jack Leach and Mark Wood operated as subs at different times and fielding coach Paul Collingwood changed into his whites just in case.
Colly wasn’t needed – but he did take out the drinks.