Late wickets give England hope as bowlers fight back to keep first Test in the balance

Will Macpherson
·3-min read
REUTERS
REUTERS

To win this enthralling first Test match, England will have to bat mighty well – certainly better than they did first time round.

But before they can worry about that they need two more Pakistan wickets pronto. They are 137 for eight – 244 ahead. You would not want to chase much more than that on a pitch that is misbehaving and against a varied Pakistan attack with plenty to concern them.

But for an uncomfortable period after lunch – for the third day in a row – when they lost their last five wickets for 60 runs, all to legspin, England had a steady third day. They batted diligently in the morning then bowled well in the evening to keep themselves in the match – just.

The trouble was they fell so far behind on Thursday. And perhaps the real damage came on the opening day, when wicketkeeper Jos Buttler missed Shan Masood twice on 45 off Dom Bess. He went to add 111 more runs, and the deficit on first innings was 107. That might just be a painful lesson to learn.

(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Buttler batted through the morning session with good sense and diligence against supremely classy bowling, notably from Mohammad Abbas, who bowled six maidens in a row. There was the occasional drive, but nothing too extravagant from Buttler, just blocks and leaves.

In that hard-fought session England lost just one wicket, Ollie Pope, caught at gully off a lifting snorter from the 17-year-old Naseem Shah, who gave him a send-off as lively as the delivery itself. Pope had sparkled on the second evening and passed fifty for the second straight innings as he dug in to take England past the follow-on mark.

The good work of a morning session that brought 67 runs for one wicket was undone by Yasir Shah’s legbreaks. When he fizzed a snorter through Buttler’s gate, the wicketkeeper’s 38 meant he was still deep in debt to his team. And Pakistan were well into the tail.

But for a bit of Stuart Broad slogging (he is averaging more than 100 with the bat this summer), the rest was a procession. Shah had Bess caught at slip, then Chris Woakes was bowled pulling. Pakistan’s other leggie, Shadab Khan came onto wrap up the innings, with Jofra Archer caught behind and Jimmy Anderson lbw. England were 219 all out and a long way behind in the game.

(PA)
(PA)

England started well with the ball as Broad had Masood caught behind for a duck, but things should have been even better. Ben Stokes put down a simple chance off Abid Ali on seven diving in front of Joe Root, the first slip. The bowler, Jimmy Anderson, is without a second innings wicket in three Tests this summer, and looked incandescent.

Pakistan took tea on 20 for one, 127 ahead, but soon after Abid inexplicably slogged Bess to the legside sweeper, and Woakes took the big wickets of Babar Azam and Azhar Ali in a fine spell. Woakes is just bowling beautifully.

Asad Shafiq and Mohammad Rizwan came together to share an irritating stand of 38, in which Anderson’s mood only dampened as he bowled another wicketless spell. But they looked for one cheeky single too many off Anderson’s bowling and Dom Sibley swooped in from the offside to run Shafiq out with a direct hit.

An end had been opened up, and England barged through it. Stokes, his quad injury easing, came on for his first bowl in almost three weeks, and had Rizwan lbw on review in his second over. In the next, Broad took his 21st wicket of the summer, with Shadab lbw on review. Stokes swapped ends, and bounced Shaheen Shah Afridi out; what a cricketer he is, even when crocked.

On the fourth day – and perhaps fifth? – a thrilling conclusion to this game awaits.