The collectivism of England’s bowlers overshadowed the grittiness of Pakistan batsmen on the rain-interrupted opening day of the second Test at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton. When proceedings came to a premature end, Pakistan were reeling at 126/5 in 45.4 overs after showing resolve through most of the day.
What would rankle Pakistan is the last 10 overs of the day. From a position of security, they swiftly disintegrated, losing three wickets in 43 deliveries. It began with Sam Curran setting up Abid Ali. The left-arm seamer followed a string of full, straight deliveries with a back-of-a-length ball angled across the opener, who fenced it to second slip.
The batsman who followed him, Asad Shafiq pushed at a Stuart Broad delivery outside the off-stump. The ball was harmless — it neither swung nor seamed. Or bounced awkwardly. But Shafiq’s urge to feel bat on ball undid him.
Eight balls later, Fawad Alam’s Test comeback after 11 years ended anticlimactically at the hands of Chris Woakes. With his bizarre stance — he starts square-on and then walks into a side-on position when the bowler is in his delivery stride —the left-hander is vulnerable to the delivery coming in off the seam. Woakes produced precisely that, and as a consequence, Pakistan plunged from 102/2 to 120/5.
Though the trio was at the heart of England’s fightback in the final session, James Anderson was their most lethal bowler. On show was vintage Anderson, hooping the ball both ways with precision and control, and repeatedly beating the outside edge. It took just eight deliveries for him to strike, taking out Shan Masood with a signature in-swinger that blasted onto the left-hander’s pads.
His second wicket — Azhar Ali — broke a 72-run stand between the two Alis. The ball was 30 overs-old and the Pakistan skipper had bedded in. But he didn’t factor in Anderson’s ability to swing the ball regardless of its condition. The delivery shaped a shade away from him and kissed the edge of his bat.