England settle for rain-soaked draw
‘We did our best’ says captain as second Test is ruined by rain Crawley marks his return to the team with a half-century
This was a Test match played behind closed doors that should be locked away in a deep vault and forgotten about, after freakish weather wrecked it as a contest.
The two captains shook hands on a draw just after 6pm on the final day, after yet another deluge of rain had caused a delay until 3.20pm.
There was time for Zak Crawley to blossom, before falling leg before to Mohammad Abbas in a second spell that provided a reminder of the danger he will pose in the final Test, but mainly this was a glorified net practice, with the match long ago running out of puff.
This week will be remembered for two incongruous images. One was the Test being halted for bad light while a practice match continued on the colts ground next door. The second was play being abandoned at 4pm on the fourth day for a wet outfield, with the ground bathed in sunshine.
There was more urgency to clear up and restart the game yesterday after concerns raised overnight by broadcasters at the inaction on the fourth day. The game had been tripped up by a rigid application of the regulations by officials worried about ramifications from their managers. Once again the paying spectator, albeit watching at home, was forgotten about. It is a shame because this has been a great summer of Test cricket so far.
Strict application of the bad light rules has marred previous Tests both here and in Manchester, but the action has made up for it. It became an issue this week because the fussy officiating was combined with incessant rain, making a result impossible.
Only 38.1 overs were bowled yesterday and just 134.3 across the five days. It is the shortest Test in England in terms of balls bowled (807) since the Lord’s Test in 1987.
Draws are rare these days. This was only the third since 2014 in England, a reflection of better drainage and the inability of teams to bat in difficult conditions.
“As players we managed to do what we could as best we could,” said England captain Joe Root. “We found ourselves in a strange position. I’ve never seen a game affected by bad light as much as this one. It is hard to blame the umpires. There is something bigger that needs looking at higher up.” It leaves the series 1-0 to England, with the last Test of this strange summer starting here on Friday.
This draw ensures England’s proud record of not losing a home series since 2014 remains intact, but it has cost them World Test Championship points. To realistically overhaul India and Australia to contest next year’s Test championship final, England had to win this series 3-0 and gain the maximum 90 points.
Instead, they will be satisfied with confirming a series win over Pakistan later this week, which would be their first for 10 years.
Changes later this week will be minimal. The batting line-up will stay the same and it is unlikely Root will want to rest one of James Anderson or Stuart Broad, given they will not play for England again after next week until early January.
Jofra Archer should replace Sam Curran, to give the attack spice, if he can be persuaded to ratchet up the pace, something that has been absent too much this summer.
“We’ll have to see where we’re at in the next couple of days and, thankfully, as we have all summer, we’ve got fantastic options available to us,” Root said. “We can look at the surface and see if it looks any different to this one and see if there’s a balance of attack we really fancy on any given pitch.”
The pitch for the next Test is two strips across from the surface used for this game and is likely to be similarly grassy and helpful to seam bowling. There was seam and swing throughout this match and batting was a difficult business. Mohammad Rizwan was man of the match for his gritty 72.
Crawley made his third Test fifty, playing some attractive drives and pulls in the best batting conditions of the game. The sun finally poked through when play started, with one session of a maximum of 56 overs. The draw could be called after 41 overs or at the start of the final hour, whichever was later.
Crawley survived a missed stumping on 37, but looked at home, pulling Yasir Shah for four to bring up a well-rounded half century.
The concentration slipped, however, when Abbas returned for a second spell taking two for 10. His first ball nipped off a seam and hit Crawley on a pad playing across the line, the decision upheld on review.
Dom Sibley grafted away in making 32, but was dismissed down the leg side for the fifth time in his Test
Calling it a day: England captain Joe Root and Pakistan’s Fawad Alam greet each other after the match is drawn, as both sides bump fists at the conclusion (above)
career. Playing away from his body, he wafted at a leg-side ball from Abbas, clipping it to the keeper.
Abbas beat Root with four out of the first five balls he faced and Yasir nipped out Ollie Pope leg before playing back. With the draw looming, Azhar Ali brought himself on.
He beat Root first ball, which was enough for the England captain. He was not going to endure the humiliation of being dismissed by his opposite number with a bowling average of 76. Root immediately declared which, with the overs knocked off for the change of innings, meant the game was done. It will not live long in the memory.
Frustration: Pakistan’s Yasir Shah looks dismayed while England’s Zak Crawley runs a single at the Ageas Bowl, where the sides accepted a draw after a second Test that was heavily curtailed by the weather