The lot of the England cricket supporter is to imagine in great detail the impending disaster which is to follow, and so it is that having bowled out Pakistan for 234, on a pitch that certainly offered far more life than expected given the series position, the fear is that Pakistan’s superior spin attack will skittle England for far fewer.
That is always possible, for certainly England are going to have to bat superbly in order to get into a position of strength, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t and a lead of even 50 would be like gold dust on a surface that is taking considerable turn on day one. Safe to say that we’re unlikely to find out how much it turns on day five, for this very much appears a result pitch, and England could have asked for nothing more.
At the start of play, having lost the toss, England would have bitten an arm or two off to be batting by the close, so whatever happens tomorrow, day one couldn’t have gone much better than it did.
Sure, there were quibbles, as there always are: the spinners didn’t exert control, or perhaps weren’t allowed to exert control, but the seamers were outstanding, particularly Anderson and Broad who took six wickets between them for just 30 runs in almost as many overs. Given that the most startling thing was the turn from the beginning, for those two to perform as they did was both astonishing and highly praiseworthy. How England’s batsmen perform is a matter for tomorrow, but unquestionably Broad and Anderson have given England a chance of squaring the series.
Not that Patel, Rashid and Moeen bowled especially badly, there were just too many freebies, which really shouldn’t come as that big a surprise given that England’s spin attack is markedly inferior. But they will have to bowl better in the second innings for England to truly have a chance.
In fact the only really sour note of the day came with the injury to Ben Stokes. It didn’t look at all good, but it’s very hard to tell with shoulder impact injuries. If he’s fortunate it’ll simply be a matter of popping the shoulder back in and putting up with some bruising. If it isn’t, then it could be months and with an uncertain prognosis. Undoubtedly a serious blow, and for the game position at least, his batting will be missed too.
And so on to tomorrow. The old story of judging a pitch after both sides have batted on it is as true here as anywhere, but that England have created an opportunity for themselves is equally true, it’s just a matter of whether they take it or not.
We’re going to get a result. That in itself England would have taken before the start.