Pakistan emerged from the second day in better shape than they might have anticipated, on the back of a combative unbeaten 60 from Mohammad Rizwan and some shabby bowling from England. When bad light stopped play, half an hour into the final session, Pakistan were 223/9 in 86 overs.
In the conventional sense, the score is incompetent. But given the amount of swing the surface generated, and the fast-bowling ammo at their disposal, Pakistan would be sufficiently pleased with their comeback. Even 200, at one stage, had looked dreamy.
When Stuart Broad nailed Babar Azam with a near-unplayable delivery, Pakistan were truly under the weather. They were 158 for 6 and in danger of being bowling out imminently. But in these difficult moments, Pakistan habitually summon an unseemly streak of defiance and energy. Rizwan embodied that spirit.
The 28-year-old is a pugnacious batsman with a sturdy technique and admirable game sense. Ever keen for scrap, like the prototypical Pakistani wicket-keeper batsman, he altered his approach according to the aptitude of his partner. With Azam, he was cautious and eager to rotate the strike, with Yasir he started to embrace a few risks, and with the tail-enders, he began to manufacture strokes. Like a cheeky little ramp and slash cut off a Sam Curran over, before he smeared Chris Woakes through covers.
Down with the last man, Naseem Shah, he threw caution to the wind, clattering Broad through covers and running every run frantically. Thus with the last four, he added 65 valuable runs in extremely trying conditions for batting. Rizwan’s three partners collected just eight runs, but they ate up 56 deliveries and lend efficient support to the ‘keeper-batsman. It was a masterclass on shepherding the lower-order batsmen.
What would anger England, even more, is that the conditions could not have been more ideal for swing bowling — the floodlights shimmered all day long and the skies were heavily overcast. The ball not only seamed off the pitch but swung nicely in orthodox fashion throughout the day. If it was not a lightning-fast surface, there was adequate carry through. But the conditions needed harnessing, which England managed only in bursts.
In the first session that lasted barely an hour, Azam and Rizwan batted vigilantly to stave off an early detonation. A bit of resistance was expected from Pakistan’s last pair of designated batsmen, but England’s bowling was wayward and inconsistent, with batsmen allowed the luxury of leaving too many deliveries and those that they were not full enough to tempt the drive. As much as 52 per cent of deliveries landed in the good-length zone, providing ample time for the batsmen to judge the deviation.
Pakistan, especially Azam, batted with calm authority. His clarity of method stood out — he kept leaving outside the off-stump and forced the bowlers to shift their line into his body. His judgement of swing was immaculate, as was the fluidity of his feet. But a big score still eluded him, as England began to probe fuller lengths after lunch and reaped instant reward. Broad’s fuller-length delivery straightened just enough to square Babar up and shave the outside edge, ending a stubborn stand.
Wicket number 5️⃣9️⃣3️⃣ for @jimmy9! 😍
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) August 14, 2020
Shortly, Anderson winkled out Yasir Shah with another full delivery, and the inexperienced lower order was waiting to be wiped away. But guided by Rizwan, they not only frustrated the bowlers but also nudged their total past 200, which had seemed inconceivable at one stage. It was a bizarrely wayward day for England’s support cast bowlers. The usually disciplined Woakes, whose methods seemed tailor-made for the pervading conditions, erred too often to leg-side, provoking furtive glances from ’keeper Jos Butter. Curran seemed to have lost his ability to curl the ball back into the right-hander, which had made him a deadly proposition in the series against India two years ago.
In the end, it was down to the grand old firm of Broad and Anderson to resuscitate them. Anderson seemed to have put an indifferent year behind him, while Broad continued his rich vein of form, picking three or more wickets for the seventh time in succession. Both, though, would readily admit that they had laid ideal swing-bowling conditions to waste.
Brief scores: PAK 223/9 (M Rizwan 60*, A Ali 60, B Azam 47; J Anderson 3/48, S Broad 3/56) vs ENG.