Back in the swing
Anderson strikes to put England in control
A week ago it was James Anderson’s mood that was brooding and dark rather than the weather. But while sullen skies eventually cut short the first day of the second Test, at least Anderson wore a sunnier disposition.
Anderson’s anger at his first-Test performance in Manchester was replaced by the satisfaction of taking two for 35 in conditions perfectly designed for his skills, as well as improving his frame of mind.
With the ball seaming and swinging, and the floodlights on for most of a humid, stormy day, Pakistan’s batsmen faced an almost impossible task against England’s attack.
At 126 for five, Pakistan hopes rest this morning on Babar Azam, their most accomplished batsman, but Anderson has a look in his eye, determined to prove his time is not up and that last week was an aberration rather than a sign of something more terminal for his career.
With heavy clouds forecast again, batting is unlikely to become easier and Joe Root has plenty of skilled seam and swing bowling options at his disposal. England can go a long way towards firming up a series-winning position today, with Pakistan’s tail long and Root’s own batsmen, in theory, better equipped to play in home conditions. Had England held their catches, Pakistan would be in deeper trouble.
England started this summer with a plan for the Ashes in their back pocket.
Top of the list was selecting one of their firecracker fast bowlers in each game. They even put three promising county quicks on quasicentral contracts to increase the pool. Stuart Broad was dropped for the first Test, and Jofra Archer took the new ball. But the old legends, Broad and Anderson, are back in control, while it was clear Archer was not going to play yesterday when he kept wicket in the warmup. He was left out for Sam Curran.
Anderson probably would not have played this Test had he enjoyed a good game at Emirates Old Trafford. This would have been an obvious one for him to miss after playing three in a row and looking “leggy” in Manchester, but because his performance sparked a few wild rumours that he was about to quit, Root wanted to give Anderson an immediate chance to make a point.
Five weeks ago Archer and Mark Wood played together at the Ageas Bowl, with England convinced their partnership could blow West Indies away. Now they are running out with the drinks. Archer has not helped himself with his performances, and his reluctance to bowl quickly last week hardly made him a first choice. This is the right attack for this Test, given the conditions that were forecast all week and a pitch with more grass on it, but we do not know if Archer is ready for the new ball or if Wood has built up his stamina.
Anderson’s Test started badly in Manchester, as he became annoyed by his inability to find Shan Masood’s edge. Somehow, Masood survived a new-ball working over outside off stump to make his highest Test score. But the 156 has been followed by nought and one here. This time, Anderson needed just eight deliveries to have him lbw, with a ball hitting middle and off.
England could have had four
wickets by lunch. They dropped two catches and failed to review a thin edge. Abid Ali was put down on one and 21 by England’s slip cordon, rejigged in the absence of Ben Stokes. Dom Sibley grabbed at a chance to his left at third slip off Broad, and Rory Burns made a mess of a dolly at second slip off Chris Woakes, taking the ball with his hands pointing up like the wicketkeeper he used to be.
The match started in perfect batting conditions, hot and sunny, but the atmosphere was heavy and Broad soon called for his inhaler, finding it hard to breathe. It was about short, five-over spells for England’s bowlers.
Azhar Ali and Abid rebuilt, somehow surviving to add 72. There were a few anxious pokes with angled bats and little foot movement as England sensed wickets. Only Root at first slip went up when Azhar feathered an edge off Anderson on 20.
It was probably lucky Anderson did not see the replay, given the slight squiggle that showed up on UltraEdge.
It mattered little. Azhar did not add to his score. Anderson ran in from the hotel end against the backdrop of a black cloud gathering and a lightning flash in the distance.
Azhar must have known the rain was coming. But between the lightning flash and the crackle of thunder, he edged Anderson low to Burns, who made no mistake second time around.
The rain came at 85 for two, and the teams went off for nearly two hours. When they resumed, 85 for two became 126 for five, England totally in control.
Abid ground his way to 60, reaching his fifty off 99 balls with an edge for four through the slips, but Curran showed his skills, swinging the ball away from the right-hander, with a thick edge flying to Burns.
Asad Shafiq played a soft poke at Broad, with Sibley a relieved man as he held on at slip. It brought Fawad Alam to the crease in his first Test for 11 years.
Alam had replaced Shadab Khan, the theory being he bolstered the batting. He averages 56 in first-class cricket, where he has spent more than a decade in the wilderness. In that time he has opened his stance to such an extent he was completely chest on, more so than Peter Willey or Shivnarine Chanderpaul, with his bat face pointing at square leg. He moved over in line as the bowler ran in.
Eleven years is a long time to wait for another Test innings but it was over in four balls, lbw to Woakes on review after five minutes. Cruel game, cricket.
Joy unbounded: James Anderson leaps in passionate celebration after dismissing Pakistan’s captain Azhar Ali in the first innings of the second Test at the Ageas Bowl, where the 38-year-old bowler answered his critics in emphatic style
Under a cloud: The second Test unfolds against a gloomy backcloth of stormy skies