LEEDS: It was a Saturday marred by rain at Headingley and when play finally started after a three-hour loss England surged ahead against some probing bowling by Pakistan to set the second Test for another early finish.
England had taken a lead of 128 at the close after fighting hard against an inspired Pakistan bowling and the fate of this Test as well as the series — which Pakistan leads after their nine-wicket win at Lord’s — now depend on how Pakistan bat for a second time on Sunday. Jos Butler was on a punishing 34 and with him debutant Sam Curran unbeaten on 12 not out. Test matches are mostly decided on first innings and Pakistan’s first essay will haunt them.
Covers were on early in the morning and light showers gave a gloomy picture but as forecast suggested the afternoon was sunny which allowed umpires Rod Tucker and Bruce Oxenford — two Australians — to call for the start of the play.
England had pinned their hopes on Joe Root but their skipper, although shaped well for his 45, fell to another uninspiring shot off Mohammad Amir and was caught behind. He has been criticised for not converting fifties into hundreds but here he fell five short of that mark.
Pakistan did keep England batsmen in check. Once Dawid Malan and nightwatchman Dominic Bess added 62 for the fourth wicket and during that period took their team past Pakistan’s first innings total of 174 it caused worries for Pakistan. Both though fell within 12 runs of each other. Malan edging Amir behind the wicket in a typical left-hander’s weak shot outside the off stump while Bess fell to a sharp leg-spin of Shadab Khan. Bess once again showed his guts as a utility batsman albeit he is still wicketless in two of Pakistan’s innings.
Jonny Bairstow continued to fell to Faheem Ashraf who brought one in and had him caught behind. Pakistan took the new ball in the 82nd over but it only accelerated the run-scoring speed.
Amir was the pick of the bowlers while Abbas was exposed on a flat pitch and with his speed, it was expected. Shadab has a long way to go as a bowler as he pitched the ball too up and wasn’t getting any assistance from the pitch.
There has been no century in this series so it would be ideal if one or two Pakistan’s batsmen notch that on Sunday. With Pakistan, you can expect anything, but more likely is that England will square the series, maybe on Sunday.