Lord’s Test: Buttler and Bess spare England an innings defeat by Pakistan
LONDON: Jos Buttler and Dominic Bess fought a determined rearguard action as England avoided an innings defeat by Pakistan in the first Test at Lord’s on Saturday.
When the pair came together before tea on the third day, England were 110 for six in their second innings — still needing a further 69 runs to make Pakistan bat again.
But come stumps, England were 235 for six after an unbroken century stand by their seventh-wicket duo.
England were a mere 56 runs ahead with four wickets standing and the new ball on the horizon, but at least they were still in the game.
Buttler was 66 not out and Bess 55 not out after marking his Test debut with a fine fifty.
The duo’s 125-run stand was also a vindication for England’s new national selector, Ed Smith, who had recalled Buttler as a specialist number seven batsman and picked Somerset off-spinner Bess.
But the way the pair played on a sunny day in the best batting conditions of the match, was also an indictment of some of their top-order colleagues involved in England’s latest collapse.
England are historically difficult to beat in home Tests starting in May – they’ve lost just three out of 33.
Yet they were facing the prospect of going 1-0 down in this two-match series midway though the afternoon after Mohammad Amir took two wickets in three balls to dismiss Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow.
England were 179 runs behind on first innings after Pakistan were bowled out for 363 early on Saturday, with Babar Azam unable to add to his 68 after retiring hurt Friday with a broken forearm while facing Ben Stokes.
The hosts soon found themselves in further trouble as Alastair Cook was dismissed for just one.
The left-handed opener, making a record-equalling 153rd consecutive Test appearance, had top-scored with 70 in England’s meagre first-innings 184.
But Saturday saw England’s all-time leading Test run-scorer lbw to Mohammad Abbas.
Teenage leg-spinner Shadab Khan struck next when Mark Stoneman was bowled off stump by a ball that kept low.
Amir rocks England
The afternoon session saw Amir strike twice to initiate a collapse that saw England lose four wickets for 19 runs.
It was the exit of Malan, who saw a piece of his helmet fly off after turning away from a Hasan Ali bouncer, that sparked the slump.
Malan edged a good-length Amir delivery, with diving wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed, the Pakistan captain, holding an excellent low one-handed catch that would not have carried to first slip.
Two balls later, Bairstow fell for a duck when left-arm quick Amir produced a superb delivery that cut back to clip the top of off stump.
Amir, whose career almost came to a complete end at Lord’s back in 2010 after he received a jail sentence and five-year ban from cricket for his involvement in a spot-fixing scandal during a corresponding Test against England, had taken two wickets for no runs in three balls.
England were now 91 for four and badly needed a batsman to support captain Joe Root, who had made a 93-ball fifty.
But instead Stokes (nine) carelessly turned Shadab off his pads to substitute Fakhar Zaman at midwicket.
A frustration of the talented Root’s career has been an inability to turn Test fifties into hundreds and Saturday was a case in point.
This was his 40th half-century at this level but there was no 14th Test hundred as Root fell lbw to Abbas for 68.
Buttler and Bess, however, kept Pakistan at bay with Bess — whose first-class debut, against Pakistan, was just two years ago — driving Hasan Ali for four to give England the lead.
A four by Buttler saw him to an 89-ball fifty, with the 20-year-old Bess — in his first match at Lord’s — receiving huge cheers when he reached the landmark in 93 balls.