Bowlers put Pakistan in the driving seat after another perplexing day for England
➤ Root’s muddled thinking makes for a disastrous day ➤ Pakistan tear out core of batting to make hosts suffer
For the second day England were abysmal in the afternoon, which will cost them badly
How do you create an electric atmosphere in an empty stadium? With the kind of skilful, exhilarating fast bowling and wrist spin that Pakistan produced to seize hold of this first Test.
They toppled the senior core of Joe Root and Ben Stokes in the evening sunshine, and at 92 for four England desperately need someone to partner Ollie Pope this morning if they are to get close to Pakistan’s 326. Pope is the glimmer of hope, unbeaten on 46, and with him is Jos Buttler, who owes the team after missing three chances behind the stumps, with two off Shan Masood costing 111 runs.
Someone will have to play like Masood to turn around a game England let slip from their grasp after lunch with some odd tactical decisions and listless cricket that Pakistan exploited.
After years of playing in deserted, soulless dust bowls in the United Arab Emirates, they know how to whip themselves up and were all over England in a testing 28 overs before the close. Even their reserves did their bit, sitting on their hotel room balconies, cheering their team-mates on with cries of Shabash (Urdu for “well done”).
It helps when you have bowlers such as Shaheen Afridi, a big leftarmer with bags of pace and movement in to the right-handers, and the magic of Mohammad Abbas, who left Stokes open-mouthed in shock after bowling him for a duck with a ball that straightened, beat the outside edge and hit off stump. The raw pace of 17-year-old Naseem Shah – swinging it both ways – did not yield a wicket but promised plenty.
After Masood’s career-best 156 lifted Pakistan to a total worth more than 400 in friendlier batting conditions in other parts of the world, they showed real threat with the new ball, in a way England have failed to do in this game. In the first over, Shaheen straightened a full ball into Rory Burns’s pads. Shaheen stood legs spread, arms aloft in victory when the review verdict was delivered.
In his next over, Shaheen hooped one in to Root, who was given out leg before but saved from a duck by a review. It did not matter; the second wicket did not take long. Abbas, so artful with the Dukes ball, exposed Dom Sibley’s technique. Sibley moved over to off stump to cover the away swinger but was done by the nip-backer. Chest on, and with nowhere to go, he missed the ball by more than a width of a bat to be lbw for eight.
With Stokes gone two overs later, England were reeling at 12 for three. Root worked his way to 14 off 58 balls; it did not matter how many he scored, just that he stayed in until the close. But his patience snapped. He tried to cut Yasir Shah but managed only a thin outside edge.
England needed their own version of Masood, someone to hang around and see off the new ball.
His fourth Test century, and third in three innings, was superbly paced. He shared a 102-run stand for the sixth wicket with Shadab Khan in 22 overs after lunch that turned the Test Pakistan’s way, as they exploited some poor England bowling and tactical decisions.
England started strongly, reeling off six maidens in a row, hitting a consistent line and length, with James Anderson removing the overconfident Babar Azam in his first over. England squeezed and Pakistan floundered, losing three wickets for 48 before lunch, but Masood stubbornly hung on.
For the second day running, though, England were abysmal in the afternoon, and it will cost them badly in this game. With five overs until the new ball, Root opted to bowl himself and Dom Bess, serving up easy runs to accomplished players of spin. Bowling Bess was fine, but with four seamers at his disposal, Root had better options than himself.
Stuart Broad and Anderson wasted the second new ball, conceding 42 from eight overs. It is not unusual for the harder ball to trigger quicker scoring, but this was not batsmen driving and offering chances, they just put away poor balls for four. Again, Root’s decision-making was perplexing. With four seamers in his attack, he replaced Anderson with Bess, just nine overs into the second new ball. He waited until 30 minutes before tea to introduce Jofra Archer and tried to use Chris Woakes instead as the enforcer. Woakes takes his wickets by hitting the channel outside off stump, not banging it in, but here he was bowling ineffective bouncers to a leg-side field.
Masood and Shadab grabbed their chances, combining for Pakistan’s first sixth-wicket century stand in England. They ran hard, pinching singles and winding up their opponents. Flustered, England conceded overthrows, and served up some easy hits, so Masood was able to show that he is more than a blocker.
He moved through the gears: his first fifty was ground out off 156 balls, his second took 95, his third only 60 as he marshalled the tail superbly and took Bess apart.
Bess did have some joy, with Shadab caught at mid-on slogging, but Buttler dropped Yasir on five off an outside edge. Archer struck twice in two balls removing Yasir without adding to his score as Pakistan’s long tail offered easy pickings. But Masood was, by now, brimming with confidence.
He swept Bess for four, whacked him over midwicket for six and then smoked another down the ground two balls later.
It was a fine innings, the first century in England by a Pakistan opener since 1996. What happened that summer? They won the series.
No answer to that: England’s Ben Stokes is left open-mouthed after being bowled by Mohammad Abbas, who wheels away to celebrate with his jubilant Pakistan team-mates