In a world of so much hype, Pakistan’s pace attack lived up to theirs leaving England’s top order in disarray on the second evening of the first Test.
The host’s top order was taken out for just 62 runs on the board, with the first three wickets falling for just 12 runs in the opening 20 overs as the much-vaunted attack of Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Abbas and Naseem Shah gave a taste of what they have to offer. It left England on 92 for four at stumps, well behind Pakistan’s first innings of 326.
“They lived up to their expectations today,” beamed head coach Misbah-ul-Haq, who has overseen a few good attacks in his time as Pakistan captain, not to mention plenty of English defeats.
He was particularly enamoured by the cluster of wickets: all the more important to what he thought was a good but not mammoth total that was only possible because of the diligence of opening batsman Shan Masood’s 156. Tall left-armer Shaheen Afridi removed Rory Burns LBW before the same fate befell Dom Sibley at the hands of Mohammad Abbas.
Abbas, a metronomic sort who finds seam movement off the flattest surface, then produced a gorgeous delivery to bowl Ben Stokes from around the wicket despite the left-hander looking to have covered his stumps. None of it, though, was a surprise to Misbah.
“Everyone knows their potential. Abbas is of very good repute now at international level.
“They lived up to their expectations today and obviously Shaheen is our standout bowler in the last two or three months. Again he bowled very well. So happy – it’s crucial for you to take wickets with the new ball especially when the game is like this and you are playing with just 326 runs on the board. It could go either way, so it’s important with you to take early wickets. They provided us with that early advantage with the new ball.”
He also reserved praise for Masood, who averaged 17 here in 2016 and, in one innings, more than doubled his tally of 71 from his four innings in that series.
“He’s a hard-working guy, very committed and I think that really showed in this innings,” said Misbah of the left-hander, who now has three centuries in as many innings, and four overall. “The way he is progressing from the last couple of series: he scored runs in South Africa, got confidence there in Australia and coming back in Pakistan and scored runs. Now he proved himself here in England, so really pleased.
“Especially as it’s not a hundred, a big hundred. Still, we would have been in trouble if he only scored a hundred. But hundred-and-fifty plus, and through the innings, that was really special.”
Masood even drew praise from Jofra Archer, who finished the Pakistan innings with three for 59. Though one of them was not Masood, Archer did nab the opener when he made his first-class debut for Sussex against the touring Pakistan side in 2016. His four for included two in the side – Masood and Azhar Ali – along with Misbah. The pair have been friends since.
“I actually know Shan pretty well,” said Archer. “I actually made my first-class debut against Pakistan and ever since then we’ve kept in touch. I spoke to him briefly when he was in Australia as well. It’s good to see that he has come a long way and I’m glad to see him getting some runs, leading from the front.
“Obviously he’s a bit annoying to bowl at! Didn’t really look like missing much balls today as well. Hopefully second innings he doesn’t have that much luck.”
Ollie Pope (46 not out) and Jos Buttler (15*) will resume England’s innings on day three, trailing by 234. Archer, who is due in at nine with Joe Root opting for the extra seamer, is optimistic that things may not be so bad for the hosts.
“The wicket is getting a bit easier to bat on and I’m pretty sure the two boys not out can go on and score big. Who knows, tomorrow Pakistan can have a bad first session and we can put some pressure on them.”