England vs Pakistan: Hosts show they remember how to play Test cricket at its best after months of humiliation

On the evidence of Friday's play, England should consider hiring a staff member whose sole job is to tell Stuart Broad before every session that he might be just about to get dropped.

Charles Reynolds, Jun 02, 2018 00:28:04 IST

After months of strong evidence to the contrary, it appears England have once again remembered how to play Test cricket.

Having unsuccessfully traipsed round the Antipodes all winter, like backpackers on the gap year trip from hell, and then ruined their welcome home party at Lord’s last week, things were in danger of spiralling out of control – to the relief of England fans everywhere, for now the rot appears to have stopped.

England bowled out Pakistan for 174 runs on Day 1 of Headingely Test. AFP

England bowled out Pakistan for 174 runs on Day 1 of Headingley Test. AFP

At a sun-drenched Headingley, loomed over by the vast concrete shell of a half-built new stand – good for fans of clunky symbolism, bad for overall attendance figures – England finally got their summer up and running.

After the humiliation last week, change was needed and change is what England did, with three alterations to their side from the first Test – one by design, one by necessity and the third a bit of both.

Keaton Jennings restoration to England colours had been expected but the scan that revealed a tear in Ben Stokes’ hamstring led to the other two. In came Sam Curran, who at 19, became England’s seventh youngest Test debutant – and with him Chris Woakes, whose batting superiority over Mark Wood undoubtedly was the deciding factor.

Once one thing went wrong for England, almost everything else went right for them. Pakistan won the battle of the toss, but they lost the Day 1 war.

On the evidence of Friday's play, England should consider hiring a staff member whose sole job is to tell Stuart Broad before every session that he might be just about to get dropped. Never better than when he feels he has a point to prove, Broad came snarling out of the traps at the start of play, menacing yet strictly disciplined, like an escaped tiger with a vigorous respect for the green cross code.

The rewards for England were almost instantaneous, Imam-ul-Haq departing in the second over as Broad and James Anderson sent down an opening barrage of four consecutive maidens. In fact it was Anderson, England’s Mr Dependable, who was a little disappointing early on, not conceding many but guilty of failing to make the batsmen play enough.

Ultimately it proved to be of little consequence for England, who had Pakistan 63/4 at lunch, Woakes getting in on the act, and 79/7 not long after it – Anderson finally realising the error of his ways and reaping the rewards.

Broad remained the pick of the bowlers, by the end of his second spell 24% of his deliveries had drawn a play-and-miss, his highest ever figure for a Test innings, but then an ongoing problem once again reared its head.

Buried among England’s more pressing recent concerns has been an inability to polish off tails and so it proved once again as Pakistan added 95 runs for their last three wickets, 16 more than the whole first seven had provided.

Shadab Khan once again was the lower-order rock for Pakistan, for the third consecutive Test he scored a half century, while the flailing bats of Mohammad Amir and Hasan Ali added some rather less coolly made runs to take Pakistan to 174 all-out.

Once they are on the front foot, this England side usually become a much trickier opposition and that was the case after Tea at Headingley as Alastair Cook and Jennings put on England’s first opening stand of over 50 for the first time in 12 innings.

There were setbacks for England before the close of day's play, but not many. Jennings losing the test of patience set him by Faheem Ashraf to edge one through to the keeper and Cook more unfortunately attempting to pull a rank leg side delivery and only managing to tickle it for a catch behind – a kick in the teeth made all the worse by the fact it came ten minutes before the close.

The day though ended with England 106/2, just 68 behind Pakistan but more importantly having, at least temporarily, remembered how to do their day jobs.

Updated Date: Jun 02, 2018 00:28:04 IST

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