Pakistan Fight Back in Rawalpindi

Ben Stokes: England v Pakistan Day 2
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Updated: Dec 2, 2022

Pakistan fought back in Rawalpindi after England’s opening day onslaught on a more conventional day of Test Cricket. Pakistan closed on 181-0, replying strongly to England’s mammoth 657 all out, their highest Test score in Asia.

The day began in anything other than a conventional manner, Ben Stokes nonchalantly pummelling the opening ball of the day for six, signifying there was no hangover from yesterday’s pyrotechnics. Stokes departed two balls later, seeking to give himself room, foxed by Naseem Shah’s clever slower ball in a wicket resembling the closing overs of a white-ball game, not the first over of a day of Test cricket.

Liam Livingstone came and went quickly in his maiden Test innings, as England’s approach was understandably more cavalier than yesterday’s controlled aggression. Harry Brook picked up where he left off yesterday, taking Zahid Mahmood for 27 in an over, eventually falling for a remarkable 153 from just 116 balls, ensuring Jonny Bairstow’s absence wasn’t felt. Will Jacks made a promising 30, and Ollie Robinson weighed in with a handy 37 as England added 151 runs in the morning session.

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Pakistan’s openers Imam ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique responded to their massive task in a more orthodox but no less effective manner, as even James Anderson struggled to extract some movement from a lifeless pitch. Both illustrated discipline and patience, undaunted by the massive deficit they faced. Shafique played with characteristic elegance and composure belying his tender years, continuing his emergence as one of Test cricket’s brightest young prospects.

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There were moments of fortune as England’s bowlers toiled away; Ollie Pope dropped Imam off Jack Leach, admittedly a tough chance but one that had England ruing Ben Foakes’s absence. Pope thought he had atoned for his mistake when Shafique strangled Anderson down the leg-side, diving full length to take an outstanding one-handed catch. However, reviews showed the ball touched the ground, and Pakistan’s openers started to exert greater authority towards the end of a day which ended in near darkness.

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England’s wicketless day poses inevitable questions about the makeup of their attack, especially the lack of a genuine second spinner. Leach bowled tidily without ever really threatening; the Pope drop aside while Jacks was milked with relative ease. Livingstone could not bowl, having jarred his knee in the field, while Ollie Robinson was ineffective in his only spell. Livingstone and Jacks are enormous talents, but they have only 64 first-class wickets between them, with their bowling geared to the innovation required in the white-ball game rather than the necessary guile in Test cricket. Stokes will be mindful of creating too much pressure on Leach and perhaps will utilise Joe Root more tomorrow.

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England remains in the ascendency, leading by 476, albeit on a pitch where taking 20 wickets looks like a gargantuan challenge. Stokes faces his greatest challenge as a captain, and tomorrow will require him to be at his innovative and motivational best as England try to ensure yesterday’s record-breaking carnage wasn’t in vain.

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