MANCHESTER: James Anderson spearheaded an improved England bowling performance in the first Test against Pakistan on Thursday, dismissing dangerman Babar Azam early on the second day at Old...
MANCHESTER: James Anderson spearheaded an improved England bowling performance in the first Test against Pakistan on Thursday, dismissing dangerman Babar Azam early on the second day at Old Trafford.
Pakistan lost three wickets in the session to reach 187-5 at lunch. Opener Shan Masood was 77 not out at the break after more than five hours at the crease, with the resolute left-hander eyeing a third hundred in as many Test innings.
Anderson, after some wayward bowling into a strong breeze on Wednesday, gave England an ideal start when he removed Babar for his overnight 69 and without Pakistan adding a run to their overnight total of 139.
England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker was on target right from his first delivery and with the sixth ball of the day had Babar edging an intended drive straight to England captain Joe Root at first slip.
Pakistan were now 139-3, with Babar out after facing 106 balls, including 11 fours, in a fine innings that saw him share a partnership of 96 with Masood.
Masood had escaped twice on 45 during Wednesday’s weather-interrupted first day thanks to a dropped catch and missed stumping by Jos Buttler, with off-spinner Dom Bess the unlucky bowler on both occasions. His two off Stuart Broad saw him reach a well-deserved fifty in 156 balls with seven fours. A humid atmosphere and grey skies, with the Old Trafford floodlights on again, meant conditions once more favoured the bowlers.
But Asad Shafiq drove an Anderson outswinger stylishly through the covers for four. Broad, like his long-time new-ball colleague Anderson, had gone wicketless on the opening day but it was a case of normal service resumed on Thursday.
Broad had Shafiq, fending indecisively at a ball that straightened and bounced to take the shoulder of the bat, caught by second slip Ben Stokes as the all-rounder moved to his right.
That wicket meant Pakistan were 150-4. Broad thought he had struck again soon afterwards to have Mohammad Rizwan lbw for a duck but a review revealed a thin edge. Masood broke the shackles with an elegant square-driven four off Anderson.
But Rizwan’s grafting knock of nine ended when he was squared by Chris Woakes, with wicketkeeper Buttler holding a simple catch from an outside edge.
A day earlier, Azam was compared to India’s Virat Kohli as one of the world’s leading batsmen after his unbeaten fifty on the opening day of the first Test against England on Wednesday.
When bad light forced an early close at Old Trafford, Pakistan were 139-2, with Babar 69 not out and Shan Masood unbeaten on 46. The prolific Babar has now reached a half-century in five successive Test innings, with his previous five matches yielding four hundreds.
“If this lad was Virat Kohli, everyone would be talking about it but because it is Babar Azam, no one is talking about it,” said former England captain Nasser Hussain while commentating for Sky Sports. “He’s young, he’s elegant, he’s got all the swagger,” he added.
“They keep going on about the ‘Fab Four (Kohli, Australia’s Steve Smith, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson and England captain Joe Root) — it’s the ‘Fab Five’ and Babar Azam is in that.” England coach Chris Silverwood said: “We know we’re up against a very good batsman.”
Babar started cautiously but after lunch he unfurled an array of stylish attacking shots en route to a 70-ball fifty featuring nine fours. He struck express paceman Jofra Archer down the ground before driving Bess for another boundary to bring up Pakistan’s hundred.