Flexible start times agreed for final England v Pakistan Test

England hold a 1-0 lead in the series ahead of the final match, which starts on Friday

Cricket - Second Test - England v Pakistan - Ageas Bowl, Southampton, Britain - August 15, 2020   Grounstaff clear water from the pitch as rain delays play, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)   Stu Forster/Pool via REUTERS

Pakistan’s bid to square their lockdown Test series with England might have been undermined by bad weather in the second Test in Southampton last week.

But a new flexible approach to the playing conditions means at least they will be able to maximise the playing time they get to attempt to push for a win in the third Test.

Three-and-a-half days were lost to rain or bad weather at the Ageas Bowl last week.

It meant only one-and-a-half innings in the match were completed, as it petered out to a draw.

England hold a 1-0 lead in the series ahead of the final match, which starts on Friday.

Weather is again likely to be an issue, as rain is forecast on the scheduled first, fourth and fifth days.

Officials have responded to the criticism of the rigid playing conditions by agreeing to tweak the start times for this match.

Now, play can start 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled start time on each day if time had been lost to bad weather.

“The match officials will ensure that light is monitored to maximise playing time while it is still safe to do so,” the home board said in a statement.

“The safety of the players is still the number one priority for this protocol.

“The revised start times have been agreed with the captains and coaches of both England and Pakistan and will be implemented for the final match of this series.

“After the conclusion of play on day one, the ICC match referee, groundstaff and the ECB match manager will meet to discuss the start times for the next day.

“If the forecast looks good in the morning, it will be an option to commence play at 10.30am and that final decision will be made by the ICC match referee, Chris Broad.”

James Anderson and Stuart Broad look set to retain their places as England bid to seal the series, with either Jofra Archer or Mark Wood expected to return to the XI in place of Sam Curran.

Pakistan’s hopes of forcing a win could be heavily reliant on their pace attack of Mohammed Abbas, Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah.

Abbas said his side are focused on extending the fine record they have in Tests in the UK.

“There is certainly a regret [of losing the first Test at Old Trafford],” Abbas said.

“We played good cricket for three-and-a-half days and England won it by playing only two hours of good cricket.

“We have a great record in England. I am excited for the third Test and looking forward to give a performance which will help my team level the series.”