By now it should probably no longer be a surprise. England, undisputed world champions in the sport of talking about ‘new eras’, are, it appears, still entirely incapable of changing the way they play at all.
"This time it would be different" came the cries, Joe Root was finally happy to bat at three, Jonny Bairstow had moved into the top five and Jos Buttler was back from the IPL armed with his ability to turn water into wine.
In the end, for all the talk, day one at Lord’s proved to be remarkably the same as ever for England, like a caterpillar dramatically emerging from its cocoon only to look exactly the same as it did before.
After winning the toss and choosing to bat, England got out their songbook and starting singing their greatest hits. First up was arguably their most popular number since the retirement of Andrew Strauss — the dodgy opening stand.
Mark Stoneman was the first to go this time, bringing his wretched county form into the international arena and cleaned up by Mohammad Abbas inside the first four overs. Of England opening partnerships that have played more than 10 innings together, he and Alastair Cook now share the dubious honour of being their nation’s worst, averaging just 19.68 in the 19 stands they’ve shared.
After narrowly avoiding being run out without facing a ball, Root did not make the most of his reprieve. England’s captain looked uncharacteristically bogged down at the crease labouring his way to four from 23 balls before falling for the oldest trick in the book, driving unnecessarily at a very wide one from Hasan Ali and edging his 24th ball through to the keeper. James Vince might have been replaced at number three, but his spirit appeared to live on.
Before the game, Root had talked of leading by example, hoping to show his teammates the way to play — in this case it was a shame that they had been paying attention.
More excitable than the toddler that is always sitting behind you on a long-haul flight, Hasan soon had a second victim, Dawid Malan edging behind for just six. England were 43/3 — new era, same old scoreline.
At the other end was Cook, playing a record-equalling 153rd consecutive Test, and for a long time, looking immune from catching whatever had afflicted the rest of his teammates. He moved past a half century, a welcome milestone after a lean period with the bat, and with his hand on the tiller, you had faith England might sail their way out of the choppy waters they found themselves in.
Sadly for most of those gathered at a sold out Lord’s, they did not although unlike many of his teammates, Cook’s dismissal at least required the deployment of a good ball. Mohammad Amir pinging back the top of his off stump with a delivery angled down just the perfect line.
England ultimately did deviate a little from their normal playbook, sadly for their fans that proved to be by boldly dispensing with the lower-order runs that have often been a feature of their recent cricket, to slide from 165/5 at Tea to 184 all out just 38 balls later.
Pakistan, it has to be said, were terrific with the ball and uncharacteristically flawless in the field, every catch pouched, no chance wasted, but things should not have been as one-sided as they were.
New eras just aren’t what they used to be.
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