We’ve been here before. So far this game is, if not quite a carbon copy, certainly reminiscent of the last match at Edgbaston. England struggled their way to a score that was more or less adequate but no more (again thanks to Bairstow and Moeen) and Pakistan went past it thanks to a century (well, two this time )and will hope to get a decent lead in the morning.
Of course, all games are different and similarities are somewhat superficial. Moeen’s contribution in particular went beyond useful this time and into the exceptional, a glorious century that turned potential disaster into something half reasonable. This summer his batting has been excellent. Today however, the weaker side of his game was exposed, as Pakistan attacked his bowling and milked him ruthlessly. This should never really be a surprise, for although he does a competent enough job, and no off spinners are demanding his place, he’s still a batsman who bowls.
Equally he is hardly the first spinner to have had a tough time against Asian batsmen, especially on a flat surface with the now customary relative slowness. But it did mean that England struggled to maintain control.
It was a welcome return to form for two of the tourist’s batsmen: Asad Shafiq had something of a nightmare last time out, while Younis Khan has looked downright clueless much of the time this series – an astonishing state of affairs for such a good player.
Where Pakistan get to tomorrow very much depends on the two currently in. Sarfraz has shown repeatedly this tour that he can bat, while Younis may well extract revenge for being so out of nick, as such performers are wont to do. But there’s not a lot behind them and with a newish ball and one wicket to take before getting into the tail, England may well be batting with no more than a modest deficit. Given how things have gone, it would therefore be typical of the perversity of it for Pakistan to instead pile on the runs.
For England Finn showed the first signs in a while of getting his pace back up – it was touching 90mph at times, and Broad wasn’t far behind. But if the bowlers had their gander up, it didn’t transfer to the fielders, as catches went down at fairly regular intervals. Hales was the worst offender, dropping one as easy as they get at gully. It happens, but it didn’t make for a good day for him given his 15% of his match fee disappeared due to him entering the 3rd umpire’s room to argue over his dismissal yesterday.
Quite what he hoped to achieve by doing that is hard to understand. Why England let him go is even harder to grasp. He’s lucky it was just that relative slap on the wrist based on what was reported.
Of the four Tests this series, three have been decent. But given Pakistan were in the acendancy last time it’s hard not to expect England to come out on top this time too. These are two flawed sides, but the visitors look slightly the more brittle. We shall see.
Day three comments below