KARACHI: Timid in their approach, Pakistan didn’t really come across as a team that could tame rampaging England in Rawalpindi and Multan.
If the first day’s play in the third and final Test here on Saturday was any yardstick then it seems that the script is unlikely to change even in Karachi, once regarded as Pakistan’s impenetrable Test fortress.
For the first time in this three-Test series, Babar Azam won the toss. Just like Pindi and Multan, Pakistan came out with another flat track at the National Stadium. This time it was the home team’s turn to put a big total on the scoreboard and then go for the kill just like England did in the previous two Tests and took a 2-0 lead in the series.
But this Pakistan team is perhaps one of the worst sides to have ever taken the field in a Test series on home soil. They just don’t seem to have the self-belief required to counter an opposition that is going all out for victory.
On a benign pitch and against an England attack that opted to rest Jimmy Anderson, Pakistan were unable to wrest an early advantage and were bowled out for 304 in 79 overs.
They did have something to cheer about in the final minutes of day one when rookie spinner Abrar Ahmed scalped opener Zak Crawley for nought, leaving England at 7-1 at stumps.
Pakistan will need more such heroics from Abrar and his fellow bowlers if they are to finish an otherwise disappointing series on a winning note.
The English bowlers did work hard and the likes of Jack Leach (4-140) and debutant Rehan Ahmed (2-89) were duly rewarded but most of the Pakistani batsmen just threw away their wickets. Skipper Babar could have played the sort of big innings that Pakistan needed to earn a face-saving win. He had a cakewalk to 78 from 123 balls but got run-out unnecessarily after taking on Harry Brook at midwicket.
Babar’s fall, however, wasn’t Pakistan’s lowest moment of the day. It was Mohammad Rizwan’s dismissal to part-time bowler Joe Root. The way Root and his captain Stokes, who took a comfortable catch, laughed after Rizwan bunted a full toss on the leg side said it all. Rizwan was unimpressive in his brief outing of 19. His tame dismissal has once again put a question mark on Rizwan’s spot in Pakistan’s Test line-up.
He has failed to show the sort of technique and temperament required from a top-tier Test batsman. Pakistan certainly see him as one but so far he has failed to live up to expectations.
Pakistan lost opener Abdullah Shafiq (8) early to Leach, who opened the bowling, the first time an England spinner has done that in the first innings of a Test since 1921. Shan Masood, playing his first Test since January 2021, fell to Mark Wood for 30 from 37 balls to leave the hosts reeling at 46-2.
Together with Babar, Azhar Ali, playing his last Test, took the score to 117. But just when it seemed he was set for a big total, Azhar gloved a short one from Ollie Robinson down the leg side and wicket-keeper Foakes made no mistake. Azhar made 45 with the help of six fours.
Leach, who took 4-140 to become the highest wicket-taker of 2022, together with 18-year-old Rehan continued to take wickets at regular intervals. After a shaky start, Rehan who became the youngest ever to play a Test for England, impressed with his googlies and well-flighted deliveries.
He got rid of in-form Saud Shakeel (23) and also trapped Faheem Ashraf (4). Agha Salman was impressive during his 93-ball 56 which included six fours. Together with Nauman Ali, who came in for Zahid Mehmood, he added 48 valuable runs for the eighth wicket.
Both Salman and Nauman fell to Leach, who also bowled Abrar to finish off the Pakistani innings. Pakistan’s last three wickets fell for just 19 runs.
Pakistan won the toss
Pakistan 1st innings
Shafique lbw b Leach 8
Masood c Leach b Wood 30
Azhar c Foakes b Robinson 45
Babar run out 78
Saud c Pope b Rehan 23
Rizwan c Stokes b Root 19
Salman st Foakes b Leach 56
Faheem lbw b Rehan 4
Nauman c Stokes b Leach 20
Wasim not out 8
Abrar b Leach 4
Extras: (b2, lb2, nb4, w1) 9
Total: (all out, 79 overs) 304
Fall of wickets: 1-18 (Shafique), 2-46 (Masood), 3-117 (Azhar), 4-162 (Shakeel), 5-196 (Rizwan), 6-219 (Azam), 7-237 (Ashraf), 8-285 (Nauman), 9-300 (Salman)
Bowling: Robinson 8-1-31-1 (nb3), Leach 31-2-140-4 (nb1), Wood 15-2-33-1 (w1), Rehan 22-2-89-2, Root 3-0-7-1
England 1st innings
Crawley lbw b Ahmed 0
Duckett not out 4
Pope not out 3
Total: (for one wkt, 3 overs) 7
Still to bat: J. Root, H. Brook, B. Stokes, B. Foakes, Rehan Ahmed, O. Robinson, M. Wood, J. Leach
Fall of wickets: 1-0 (Crawley)
Bowling: Ahmed 2-1-2-1, Nauman 1-0-5-0
Umpires: Joel Wilson (WIS) and Ahsan Raza (PAK)
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