England seem to be in the habit of losing the first game of a Test series. I thought that the situation this summer, where England are coming off winning two Tests in a row whilst the Pakistan players haven’t played a competitive game in about five months, could change this. It now appears that my optimism was misplaced.
England and Jimmy Anderson’s second day started a lot better than the first when a full, wide delivery was edged by Babar Azam to Joe Root at first slip in his first over of the day. Broad induced a edge from Asad Shafiq later in the morning, and Woakes did the same to wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan not long later. Pakistan’s issues in the morning were compounded by their slow scoring, managing to score just 48 runs at 1.86 runs per over.
England’s bowlers obviously over-indulged at Lunch, because the Afternoon session all went Pakistan’s way. Bess and Root bowled the first few overs, allowing Pakistan to score freely, until the new ball was available. Once it was, Anderson and Broad wasted it with eight overs of loose and utterly unthreatening bowling which Pakistan took advantage of to score even more. Woakes and Bess tightened things up, but neither looked threatening as Pakistan eased up to almost 300 runs.
Bess eventually made the breakthrough, when Shadab Khan decided to smash him over mid on but instead mis-hit the ball high in the air to Joe Root. That opened the floodgates, with Archer taking a pair (having been left out of the attack for most of the afternoon session) and Broad taking the final two wickets, with Pakistan finishing on 326 all out.
And through almost the entire Pakistan innings, Shan Masood batted. Chris called him “a relatively limited player” in yesterday’s match report, and this is true. Almost every opener is, as the position demands patience and control over other attributes like a flashy technique or a wide range of shots. I must admit that there I really enjoy watching batsmen who don’t score quickly. Cook and Trott, for example. There is just something satisfying to me about a batsman absolutely infuriating the bowlers by refusing to get out. Masood scored 156 runs in total, and hhas put Pakistan in a very good position considering the bowler-friendly conditions at Old Trafford.
Jos Buttler dropped another edge from Dom Bess’s bowling today, after the missed catch and stumping chances yesterday. There’s a lot that’s been written about Jos Buttler’s position in the Test team, and his continued selection frankly doesn’t seem to have much support at all outside the England camp. One thing which might be overlooked is his impact on England’s spin bowlers. Dom Bess created three clear wicket-taking opportunities in Pakistan’s first innings, and Jos Buttler dropped them all. There is a huge difference in how Bess is regarded by fans and the media if he takes one or four wickets in an innings, not to mention the damage to his Test bowling average. Jos Buttler’s inability to catch the ball when up at the stumps could literally ruin a spin bowler’s international career.
Pakistan’s opening bowlers Abbas and Afridi took three wickets in the first few overs, dispatching Burns, Sibley and Stokes in quick succession. All three wickets were from deliveries targetting the stumps, with the first two being lbw and Stokes being bowled. This highlights England’s deficiency in that regard, as they have typically bowled shorter and wider, taking these two methods of dismissal out of consideration. In these conditions, and on a pitch which seems both quick and allowing seam movement, full straight balls which seam or swing can be lethal. Not for the first time this summer, the tourists are showing England how to bowl in England.
Joe Root and Ollie Pope settled things down for a while, but Root eventually edged one from Yasir Shah to the wicketkeeper (who, unlike Jos Buttler, caught the ball). Pope and Buttler saw England through to stumps, but England are in a very precarious position and must do very well tomorrow to avoid a large deficit.
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