England peg back Pakistan as bowlers knuckle down to tough task
Published 19/01/2012 | 05:00
After England's headlong rush to the exit on day one, the first Test reverted to type for the conditions, with bowlers winkling batsmen out and wickets falling by the session rather than the over.
That was what Andrew Strauss and his team had always planned for here and it went well enough to keep them in the match as Pakistan were reduced to 288-7 -- a lead of 96 -- at the close of the second day.
It was a terrific effort by England's bowlers, especially after Pakistan had reached 114 without loss 30 minutes before lunch, their cause boosted when James Anderson and Graeme Swann struck in the final two overs of the day.
At one point Strauss' side looked as if they might be facing a vast first-innings deficit, but it should be manageable if the bowlers continue their sterling work.
The big wicket in that late flurry was that of Misbah-ul-Haq, lbw to Swann after an assist from the Decision Review System. Pakistan's captain can be a difficult man to shift once set.
Looking at the initial replays of Billy Bowden's not-out decision, as Misbah pushed forward to an off-break with only a vague intention of playing the ball, it looked as if the umpire was right.
But England referred, more in hope than expectation, and DRS upheld their request despite the ball looking as if it may have struck Misbah just outside off stump.
England's fightback will have given them plenty of succour. Many supporters have been recalling the Brisbane Test just over a year ago, when England escaped with a draw after trailing Australia by 221 runs on first innings, as a comforting precedent.
As a reference point for this game, though, Brisbane is flawed. The Gabba pitch barely flinched over five days, while Australia lacked a spinner of the quality of any in this Pakistan side, let alone Saeed Ajmal. Unless the pitch here goes completely to sleep and England's batsmen manage to keep their pads out of Saeed's path, a draw is the least likely result.
England might have bowled Pakistan out had their catching and throwing been exceptional rather than good, with Chris Tremlett, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen missing chances, albeit tough ones.
But after their abject first innings, the batsmen owe England a performance and if they provide one, this Test could end up being a lot closer than it looked when Pakistan's opening batsmen were celebrating their century stand. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Pakistan v England, First Test Day 3, Live, Sky Sports 1, 6.0am