Five days is a long time in Test cricket. In the case of England v Pakistan I am not talking about the length of the game itself but the amount of time in between England’s dismal performance in the first Test which saw them lose the first Test match of a home summer for the first time since 1995 against the West Indies.
In those five days, Mark Stoneman has been dropped in favour of a Keaton Jennings recall, Sam Curran was added to the squad as cover for an injured Ben Stokes and made his debut and Chris Woakes replaced Mark Wood and England have truly turned it around.
In a near mirror image of the first day of the first Test, it was Pakistan rather than England who won the toss, chose to bat and were bowled out incredibly cheaply for 174 in just 48.1 overs. Only 19-year-old spinner Shadab Khan batting at number seven passed 50 for the tourists, adding his third half-century in just his fourth Test. No other Pakistani scored more than 28.
England’s three senior bowlers shared the wickets equally with James Anderson taking 3-43, Stuart Broad taking 3-38 and Woakes taking 3-55. They found swing and movement with the new ball and Broad in particular bowled with real fire and looked to have found his rhythm, with 24% of his deliveries drawing a play-and-miss which is his highest ever figure in a Test innings and getting his highest average amount of swing since the summer of 2015. Along with the more established seamers, debutant Curran also impressed despite only picking up the final wicket as the left-armer found the most amount of swing in his 7.1 overs.
Imam ul-Haq was the first to go for a 10-ball duck, as Broad struck in the second over of the day and Pakistan’s first four wickets departed for just 68 runs. Azhar Ali was LBW to Broad for 2, Haris Sohail caught by Dawid Malan at second slip off Woakes for 28 and Asad Shafiq caught by Alastair Cook at first slip off Woakes for 27.
Pakistan’s next three wickets fell in just 13 balls with captain and wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed getting bowled by Anderson for 14 with a ball that kept low and he simply played all around. Usman Salahuddin was trapped on the crease LBW by Broad for four, despite Salahuddin’s review and Faheem Ashraf departed for Pakistan’s second duck of the innings LBW by Anderson who got the ball to just nip back.
At 79-6 it looked to be a desperate situation for Mickey Arthur’s side but thanks to Shadab’s 50 and some useful support from Mohammad Amir, 13, and Hasan Ali, 24, he was able to shepherd Pakistan to 174 all out – a total that while still woefully under par, was still a lot better than it could have been. Shadab eventually departed as the final wicket, caught in the deep by Keaton Jennings to hand Curran his first Test wicket.
A buoyed England side who had not even needed to utilise the spin of Dom Bess to skittle their opponents began their first innings after tea with confidence. The recalled Jennings looked more settled alongside Cook at the top of the order and the pair soon passed 50. However, despite his positive start, Jennings fell shortly after for 29 with a tentative nudge at a delivery from Ashraf and was caught behind by Sarfraz with the score at 53-1.
At the other end though, Cook continued to show the rediscovered form of his first innings 70 at Lords and, alongside captain Joe Root, reached another 50 partnership. Unfortunately for Cook, with the end of the day’s play looming, he chased a short and wide delivery from Ali and got a faint glove behind to Sarfraz, dismissing Cook for 46.
Cook’s dismissal brought night-watchman Bess to the crease instead of scheduled number four Dawid Malan and the 20-year-old Somerset spinner had the chance to build on his second innings 57 from Lords. Bess is clearly a good batsman and has a first-class century to his name in his 17 games for his county and Bess showed as much, navigating his way through the last few overs of the day in partnership with Root as England ended the day on 106-2 – a mere 68 runs behind the Pakistan first innings score.
It was quite clearly England’s day and the bowling attack bowled excellently, nailing their lines and lengths and finding movement of the pitch. This continued over into their innings with Jennings looking a lot more comfortable in an England shirt than he did this time last year despite his dismissal in the 20s and Cook looks well and truly back in form. England will need to really drive home their advantage tomorrow with the bat and post a big first innings lead to ensure they do not let this slip.