England v Pakistan: Ben Stokes Inspires Home Fightback
OLD TRAFFORD–England are clinging on in the first Test against Pakistan after a Ben Stokes-led fightback on a fluctuating third day at Emirates Old Trafford.
The home side took four wickets for 27 runs, including two for Stokes, in the fading light to leave Pakistan 137-8, leading by 244.
Even now that represents a formidable target for England to chase on a surface spitting and biting for the spin bowlers.
History is not on their side, either. Only once before have more runs been chased in the fourth innings to win a Test on this ground.
Earlier, England, who were 92-4 overnight, salvaged something from their first innings by reaching 219.
Ollie Pope moved on to 62 and Jos Buttler came through a forensic examination from Mohammad Abbas to edge his way to 38.
Buttler was the first in a slump of three wickets for 11 runs, an overall final collapse of 5-60.
All of those wickets fell to leg-spin, Yasir Shah ending with 4-66 and Shadab Khan picking up 2-13.
England cling on
This was a fascinating and entertaining day, containing the fall of 14 wickets and, for long periods, the feeling that England were fatally damaged by their previous errors.
Lives given by wicketkeeper Buttler to Shan Masood, who made 156, captain Joe Root’s tactics and finding themselves 12-3 on Thursday evening left England in an almost hopeless situation.
That they are not entirely out of the contest is thanks to the way they battled in the face of some relentless pace bowling in the morning session, and a late flurry of wickets when Pakistan were on the brink of moving out of sight.
At 101-4, the tourists were 208 ahead, gathering runs quickly and heaping frustration on an increasingly dejected home side.
England’s inspiration first came from a direct-hit run-out from Dom Sibley, then the introduction of the irrepressible Stokes, who was not thought to be fit to bowl in this match.
He had Mohammad Rizwan lbw and bounced out Shaheen Afridi either side of Stuart Broad trapping Shadab leg before to give England an outside chance of victory in what promises to be a thrilling conclusion.
Stokes does it again
Even when he is not fully fit and after he registered a duck in the first innings, the talismanic Stokes has still found a way to influence this match.
His introduction was a final throw of the dice for England, but immediately he unsettled Rizwan before pinning him to the crease for the lbw decision.
Until that point, Pakistan’s steady accumulation was gradually putting the game beyond England. Stokes had dropped Abid Ali at second slip off James Anderson, who himself put down a tough opportunity off Asad Shafiq at point off Chris Woakes.
The latter chance came during a Woakes spell where his full length accounted for Babar Azam and Azhar Ali, Pakistan’s two best players, to leave Pakistan 63-4.
However, with off-spinner Dom Bess unable to exert control in the helpful conditions, Rizwan added useful runs with Shafiq and Shadab.
Then came Sibley’s athletic run-out of Shafiq and another inspirational Stokes performance.
England spun out
The irony of England eventually succumbing to leg-spin was that they were given a torrid time by Pakistan’s pace bowlers – Abbas in particular – in a gripping morning session.
With metronomic accuracy and just enough seam movement, he beat the outside edge countless times. Buttler was stuck on his overnight 15 for nearly 40 minutes.
Pope’s fluency of the previous evening was also sucked away before he was undone by a brutal lifter from the fiery Naseem Shah, who also greeted Woakes with a thud into the helmet.
Woakes recovered to battle to lunch with Buttler, only for Yasir, who had previously bowled too short, to make a telling intervention.
Buttler was bowled through the gate playing for non-existent turn, Bess gloved one that bounced and Woakes missed an attempted pull to one that skidded.
Broad slashed 29 not out from 25 balls – he is averaging 102 with the bat this summer – but he was left stranded after Jofra Archer gloved behind and Anderson was lbw playing the reverse sweep, both off Shadab.
‘Archer bowled five overs like Gus Fraser’ – what they said
“The fact England had to turn to Ben Stokes exposed a couple of England’s bowlers – I think it certainly exposed Jofra Archer.
“Archer bowled five overs of what I’d call Gus Fraser, no disrespect. He was bowling 82mph, pitched-up bowling. I don’t think Archer is in the team to deliver that style of bowling.
“Throughout this summer he is averaging 85mph with the ball in hand and maybe he isn’t that quick, quick bowler we thought he was.
“Maybe England have to assess his style of bowler and what he’s delivering on a consistent basis more than we thought he was going to be.
“All this talk of 90mph and it’s going to be fizzing past the batsman’s noses on a regular basis, maybe he can’t bowl like that.”
SOURCE: BBC NEWS