Defiant England battle back
England’s bowlers produced a spirited performance on day two of the first Test against Pakistan as they looked to limit the damage caused by a below-par batting display.
After being dismissed for a meagre 192 yesterday, thanks chiefly to Saeed Ajmal’s seven-wicket haul, Andrew Strauss’ men today faced the difficult challenge of restricting their opponents, who resumed on 42 without loss, to a manageable total on a true surface.
Pakistan, for whom Mohammad Hafeez top-scored with 88, reached stumps on 288 for seven to retain a clear advantage in this first encounter of three.
However, by claiming wickets at regular intervals following Stuart Broad’s double breakthrough in the morning session, England undoubtedly enhanced their hopes of gaining a positive result, and they deserve immense credit for their efforts on a day full of the attritional fare many expected to witness in this series.
Broad, operating with aggression and control, provided the initial spark for the tourists, bowling Taufeeq Umar for 58 to end an opening stand of 114 and also having Azhar Ali caught behind.
Hafeez, who had been dropped off Broad immediately prior to Taufeeq’s departure and also survived a run-out chance on 44, continued to frustrate England into the afternoon, but he then fell leg before to Graeme Swann, before Jonathan Trott surprisingly accounted for Younus Khan.
After James Anderson had removed Asad Shafiq with the second new ball, England then received a significant double boost late in the day as Misbah-ul-Haq and Abdur Rehman departed in successive overs.
Misbah, who faced 154 balls in a typically gritty innings of 52, became a second victim for Swann, who successfully reviewed an lbw decision that had initially gone against him, and Rehman had no answer to a magnificent delivery from Anderson that swung in and thundered into off stump.
Wicketkeeper Adnan Akmal was unbeaten on 24 at the close and will be charged with shepherding Pakistan’s tail to 300 and beyond on day three.
Although Broad provided encouragement in a probing opening spell, Pakistan’s openers appeared firmly in control for much of the morning.
Their only major scare in the first hour came when Hafeez was almost run out by Ian Bell at square-leg. The right-hander was well short of his ground after being sent back by his partner, but Bell - with a single stump to aim at - missed his target by the narrowest of margins.
Taufeeq, strong through the off side and always keen to drive, was the first to reach 50, and did so in some style by thumping Chris Tremlett to the cover boundary.
The elegant Hafeez, who also appeared more confident on the front foot, then brought up a half-century of his own in Tremlett’s next over, before Broad returned to give England a welcome shot in the arm.
Hafeez was dropped by a diving Tremlett at mid-on after being inconvenienced by a well-directed short ball, but Broad refused to be downhearted and produced a wonderful delivery to account for Taufeeq.
The batsman pushed forward defensively, but was beaten by one that held its line from around the wicket before taking the top of off stump.
Broad then made a second breakthrough prior to lunch when Azhar feathered an edge through to Matt Prior, having been beaten by a hint of seam movement off a good length.
England’s seamers came out with renewed determination after the interval and were unfortunate not to gain further reward.
Younus survived a worthy lbw appeal from Tremlett and also saw an outside edge off Anderson fall just short of Strauss at first slip, and Hafeez was struck on the shoulder as he took his eye off another short-pitched delivery from the hostile Broad.
The lack of threat being posed by Swann, who was slog-swept over midwicket for six by Hafeez in an over costing 13, appeared to represent England’s greatest concern.
Yet the off-spinner claimed a vital wicket when Hafeez, sweeping once again, missed a full delivery and was adjudged leg before by umpire Bruce Oxenford. A review failed to save the opener.
Hafeez’s departure brought Misbah to the crease and Pakistan’s skipper brought up 2,000 Test runs with a nonchalant four through midwicket off Swann.
By this stage, Younus had settled into his stride, typified by a glorious on-driven four off Broad. However, he was to be ousted by an unlikely source as Trott pinned him in front with a superb delivery that jagged back sharply off the seam.
The part-time medium-pacer also came close to winning an lbw verdict against Misbah, who edged Trott’s next delivery through the vacant slip region.
A lull in proceedings followed after tea, with both teams seemingly waiting for the second new ball to become available.
When that moment arrived, Anderson took just six balls to further enhance England’s hopes. Shafiq pushed at an outswinging delivery with an open face and Prior sprung to his right to pull off an impressive one-handed catch.
Misbah and Adnan, who grew in confidence after a shaky start against the moving ball that saw him offer Kevin Pietersen a tricky one-handed chance at cover off Tremlett, provided their side with fresh momentum, but there was to be another twist.
An England review led to Misbah’s exit after he had failed to offer a genuine stroke to a flighted delivery from Swann that turned sharply.
Anderson then found a perfect length and brought one back through Rehman’s defences, sparking ecstatic celebrations from a team boasting renewed belief.