Sunday 18 February 2018

Sublime Root piles pressure on Pakistan

Joe Root leaves the field at Old Trafford after scoring 254 runs in the second Test. Photo: PA
Joe Root leaves the field at Old Trafford after scoring 254 runs in the second Test. Photo: PA

David Clough

Joe Root piled the pressure on Pakistan with his career-best second Test double-century at Old Trafford.

Root's 10-hour 254 was just two runs short of England's ground-record highest individual score, at this venue with a 132-year Test history.

Only Ken Barrington, 52 years ago against Australia, has made more. Root's 406-ball tour de force occupied six sessions, and figured in three century stands.

He and Chris Woakes - the latter a nightwatchman in name only, with nine first-class hundreds on his CV - put on 103 for the fifth wicket early on day two of this second Investec Test.

It was only after Root finally departed, a skied catch to Mohammad Hafeez running in from deep square-leg after orders had clearly come to up the ante, and Jonny Bairstow followed for 58 that England declared on an early-evening 589 for eight declared.

Root and captain Alastair Cook did much of the hardest work with their hundreds on day one, and the Yorkshireman's reward on the resumption was an obvious opportunity to scale the impressive list of England's highest individual scores.

He was less fluent than on day one but kept his concentration to pass 200 when he reverse-swept the world's number one bowler Yasir Shah for the 22nd of his 27 fours. It was Woakes (58) who had been England's driving force in the first hour with early off-side boundaries off either foot against Rahat Ali, and then hit a memorable upper-cut six off Mohammad Amir. Root took the majority of Amir's spell as he set himself again for an extended stay. By the time he counted his first boundary of the day - an edge which might have done for him on 155 off Shah had Younus Khan been more alert at slip - Woakes had hit seven fours to go with his earlier six. He added another superb four in his 88-ball 50, his second in five innings.

There had been a painful early blow to Woakes' right forearm when Rahat found a little variable bounce from the Pavilion End, but otherwise zero discomfort until he poked a caught-and-bowled back to Yasir. At that point, the leg-spinner had followed his 10 for 141 at Lord's with one for 139 here - and he would chalk up a double-hundred of his own before England were done.

Pakistan's troubles also included a minor injury scare for Amir, off the field for a time after his initial spell but officially there was no significant problem for him and he was fit to bowl again after lunch. But it was to no avail.

Ben Stokes had some good fortune, depositing a mis-sweep at Yasir safely on 25, but less perhaps, when Wahab (three for 106) had him caught-behind after overturning a caught-behind decision off the glove via an extensive DRS procedure. Bairstow escaped on nine when Sarfraz Ahmed could not hold another chance off Yasir, and profited for a 74-ball 50.

Root, who began the day on 141, was eventually caught by Mohammad Hafeez off the bowling of Wahab Riaz before his side declared.

Woakes then took three wickets as Pakistan made 57 for four in reply by stumps on the second day.

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