Pakistan gained the upper hand at the end of day two of the Lord’s Test against hosts England, courtesy an excellent five-wicket haul from leggie Yasir Shah. Pakistan began the day at 282 for 6, hoping to cross 400, with centurion skipper Misbah-ul-Haq still at the crease. However, they could not even reach 350 as Misbah fell early, and Chris Woakes claimed two more scalps to finish with six. At that stage, England would have felt they held the upper hand. And, they were in command at one stage, having reached 118 for 1 without much trouble, before Yasir turned the match on its head.
While England batted very well against Sri Lanka, they were aided by an inexperienced bowling line-up. The same wasn’t going to be the case with Pakistan, who possess a much sharper bowling attack. England’s middle-order in particular was likely to be exposed. And, this is exactly where Pakistan and, Yasir, in particular, caught the opponents off guard. Thanks to the Pakistan leg-spinner’s brilliance, England collapsed from a position of strength to one of apprehension. At 253 for 7, with only the tail to come, the hosts will need a herculean effort from Woakes and Broad to pull them out of trouble.
With the middle-order untested, England would have been hoping for big scores from Alastair Cook and Joe Root. The English skipper rode his luck to reach 81. He was dropped twice, and such should ideally have gone on to cross the three-figure mark, but could not make full use of his lives. In hindsight though, it was Root’s wicket that changed the course of the game. After Rahat Ali got Alex Hales early, Root and Cook brought their experience into play, and featured in a century stand. Just as they were gaining the upper hand, Root top-edged a slog-sweep.
The wicket gave Pakistan and Yasir a boost, who ran through the middle-order without much trouble. James Vince managed to hit a few fours before being trapped in front. Gary Ballance, on a comeback, seemed extremely nervous, and did not last long. Jonny Bairstow was in great form against Sri Lanka, and England would have had high hopes from him. He batted with purpose, but on 29, fell as Yasir again proved too good for an English batsman. The leg-spinner completed his five-for when he trapped Moeen Ali, who had also crossed his 20s, lbw.
The excellent performance by Yasir undid the good work with the ball by England earlier in the day. Having resumed on 282 for 6, Woakes jolted Pakistan early, sending back Sarfraz Ahmed and Wahab Riaz in quick succession. At 310 for 8, Pakistan would have been hoping someone stays with skipper Misbah. But, the centurion himself was cleaned up by Broad, having added only four to his overnight score. Mohammad Amir and Yasir added some important runs, but Amir’s most crucial contribution was to be sending back the well-set Cook later in the day, giving Pakistan an even bigger edge.
--By A Cricket Analyst