If you were only given a scorecard of this match and a description of each team’s circumstances, and had to guess which side was which, you would almost certainly get it wrong.
England won the toss, they are playing in home conditions, they sit higher in the ICC rankings, their players have played almost three times as many Tests as the opposition, and yet it is Pakistan who are running rampant at Lord’s.
After their opening day aberration, many expected England to come roaring back into things on an overcast Day Two, Pakistan’s overnight score of 50/1 turned into something more palatable for the home crowd.
Perhaps that is what England expected too, a burst of quick wickets and they’d be back in this game, another Pakistani batting collapse and their own Day One deficiencies could be forgotten, Jimmy Anderson to the rescue.
But this is not what happened.
Instead it was Pakistan who looked most at home in these conditions, never losing wickets in clusters, playing with an assuredness that belied their experience — by the close they were 350/8, with a lead of 166 and a stranglehold on the match.
Where in the past Pakistan have perhaps leant all too heavily on one or two players, this was a group effort. First it was Azhar Ali and Haris Sohail steering the side almost all the way through the cliched crucial first hour, then 10 overs later with both of those men back in the hutch, Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam took the reins.
England, it has to be said, did not bowl badly, but where Pakistan had been faultless they were profligate in the field, at least four chances put down. Opportunities to build pressure literally slipping through their fingers.
Ben Stokes was the standout man for the home side, bowling with hostility and pace, but in truth this was the second day in a row that belonged to Pakistan.
They were disciplined with the bat where England had failed to be, fortunately not following the example set by their captain Sarfraz Ahmed — the only man in his side truly guilty of giving his wicket away.
Perhaps the most promising sight for Pakistan was the third of their three big partnerships, Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf, just 19 and 24 respectively. Products of the PSL, the pair looked undaunted on the biggest of stages. The 72 runs they added saw off the second new ball and with it you’d imagine England’s chances of getting back into the game.
Six overs before the close Shadab brought up his 50, the fourth half centurion of the innings and the second youngest batsman to do so in the ground’s history and while England picked up a couple of wickets before the close, by then the damage had been done.
At the end of day press conference, Jonny Bairstow aggressively denied that England were well behind in this match, maintaining that with three days remaining nothing was yet lost. While not very convincing it was at least a robust display of defence, something his team could do with a lot of if they are to have any hope of saving this Test.
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