Moeen Ali continued his impressive form with the bat as England were all out for 328 on day one of the fourth and final clash with Pakistan at The Oval. The all-rounder, oft-maligned for his failure to prove a reliable frontline spinner, helped his side to recover from a disappointing morning session by notching the third Test century of his career. Sohail Khan registered a second consecutive five-fer for the tourists, who lost legendary former captain and original 'Little Master' Hanif Mohammad at the age of 81 on Thursday (11 August).
Cook initially won the toss and, although tempted to bowl with the pitch looking a little green, elected to bat first. Opening partner Alex Hales survived an early caught behind appeal but was controversially removed for just six when the third umpire was unable to clarify whether or not a catch from Yasir Shah off Mohammad Amir at short mid-wicket had been grounded. The decision on the field was allowed to stand.
Debutant Iftikhar Ahmed later dropped Cook at first slip on 34, but the skipper went shortly afterwards when he bottom edged a delivery from Sohail onto his own stumps. That wicket began a miserable 15-ball stretch for England, who lost Joe Root to an uncharacteristic error in judgement that saw him edge behind to wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed.
Wahab Riaz then claimed his 50th Test wicket with a snorter that James Vince, under huge pressure to retain his place in the team, could only nick behind for one.
The hosts reached lunch at 88-4 and after the interval Jonny Bairstow was caught off a no ball from Wahab. He made up for that mistake by coaxing an edge from Gary Ballance that carried to Azhar Ali at third slip.
Bairstow then survived an lbw appeal from Amir and an outside edge from Moeen was put down by Azhar. The Worcestershire stalwart earned another reprieve when the same man spurned a difficult chance that spun up off Yasir at short leg and he took advantage of that to bring up a third consecutive 50 to help a recovering England to post 200-5 at tea.
Pakistan looked to assume control once again when Bairstow's inside edge off Amir was taken by Sarfraz for 55. Chris Woakes fell five runs short of his own third Test half-ton when he tickled the faintest of edges behind. He appealed the umpire's decision to give him out and there was nothing doing on hotspot, but snicko subsequently spiked to send him back to the pavilion.
Stuart Broad quickly followed for a two-ball duck, wasting an appeal of his own after being trapped lbw by Sohail. Steven Finn survived a couple of dicey calls before being comprehensively bowled for eight. England then edged past the 300 mark and Ali, who scored an unbeaten 155 not out against Sri Lanka during a nine-wicket victory at Chester-le-Street back in May, sealed his second century of the summer in fine style by lifting Yasir over mid-wicket for six.
He finally fell for 108 by top edging an attempted pull shot off Sohail straight to Yasir. Pakistan then came out to bat for the final three overs of play and England, bidding to claim all nine series trophies and also potentially return to the top of the ICC Test rankings for the first time since 2012, quickly achieved a breakthrough as Broad utilised a much smarter review to remove Sami Aslam lbw. Yasir was installed as a nightwatchman and both he and Azhar failed to score a run to leave them at 3-1 heading into day two.