At the end of a day in which Pakistan were at their enthralling, irresistible best, England are facing a mighty battle to avoid going behind in their sixth series on the bounce.
First it was a brilliantly patient 156 from Shan Masood that carried Pakistan to 326 in their first innings. That looked a good total as England’s openers walked out to bat, and a much better one by the time the two of them and Ben Stokes were back in the changing room with just 12 runs on the board. The contrasting threats of Shaheen Shah Afridi’s left-arm pace and Mohammad Abbas’s right-arm nibble caused chaos in the England top order. Pakistan were bowling with such fizz, and appealing and celebrating with such vigour that it was easy to forget there were no fans in the ground.
By stumps, England had staggered to 91 for four, with Joe Root dismissed by the first of Pakistan’s legspinners, Yasir Shah. The bright spot was Ollie Pope, who sparkled on his way to 46 not out. Much rests on the 22-year-old’s shoulders tomorrow.
And to think England’s day had started so well. With the morning’s sixth ball, Jimmy Anderson, having swapped to the Brian Statham End, tempted Babar Azam into a big drive and, upon his first error, Pakistan’s starlet departed for 69. Soon enough Stuart Broad had Asad Shafiq caught at second slip, and Pakistan were 150 for four.
England were bowling beautifully, with the old stagers finding six maidens in a row, and had designs on dismissing Pakistan cheaply. That sense was only strengthened when Chris Woakes had Mohammad Rizwan caught behind.
But, just as they were on the opening day, England were simply dismal after lunch. With the new ball five overs away, Root opted for spin from both ends rather than any of the four seamers who had bowled well before the break. Masood and Shadab Khan gleefully gobbled up 27 runs from those five overs so that, with their eye in, they were able to take 42 more from the first eight from Anderson and Broad with the new ball.
It was during Pakistan's post-lunch feast, which was defined by the way they simply ran England ragged, that Masood reached his 100 from 251 balls. From there, he made 56 from 68, teeing off to Dom Bess and opening up as wickets fell around him. This was a special innings, going through the gears, his third hundred in his last three innings, all against different opponents. It was the first century a Pakistan opener has scored in England for the small matter of 24 years.
His stand of 105 with Shadab was ended when the all-rounder got a little carried away, and tried to whack Bess down the ground. Root took a fine catch at long-off after a period of poor English fielding.
Jofra Archer had been ignored since lunch, but came on to dismiss Yasir and Abbas in successive balls. By then, Yasir had been dropped by Jos Buttler, the third opportunity he had spurned off Bess in a very untidy display behind the stumps.
Masood was still there, and played some shots until, after tea, Broad trapped him lbw. He got Naseem Shah, the 17-year-old, to finish with three wickets – taking him to 19 for the summer.
Pakistan were instantly all over England’s top order. Rory Burns was pinned in front by Shaheen’s fourth ball and, by the time Dom Sibley was plumb to Abbas, Root had needed a review to survive being given out lbw. The ball was sailing over the stumps. It was not sailing over the stumps when Stokes advanced to Abbas – bowling slowly enough for the keeper to stand up to him soon after – and was thoroughly beaten. At home, England had not lost their first three for less than the 12 here for 20 years.
Root dug in, and had one run from his first 36 balls as Pope busied himself at the other end. Yasir appeared, took a little time to find his rhythm, and when he did, Root got greedy and was caught behind cutting.
Buttler joined Pope, who kept Pakistan at bay until stumps at the end of a special day’s Test cricket. Pakistan are right on top.