Lord’s Test: Pakistan pounce as England’s top-order exposed again
LONDON: Pakistan pacemen Mohammad Abbas and Hasan Ali took four wickets apiece as England suffered yet another top-order collapse at Lord’s on Thursday.
Hopes that a return home and a rejigged top-order picked by new national selector Ed Smith would help rid England of the batting slumps that plagued them during a run of seven straight Tests without a victory in Australia and New Zealand quickly proved illusory as they were dismissed for just 184.
Abbas, in his first match at ‘the home of cricket’, finished with excellent figures of four for 23 in 14 overs.
Meanwhile the recalled Hasan, who did not play in Pakistan’s win over Test debutants Ireland in Dublin concluded last week, took four for 51 in 15.2 overs.
Pakistan then consolidated the good work of their bowlers by reaching stumps having lost just Imam-ul-Haq to be 50 for one — a deficit of 134 runs.
Azhar Ali was 18 not out and Haris Sohail, missed in the slips when Ben Stokes dived across Dawid Malan, unbeaten on 21.
Alastair Cook in his 153rd consecutive Test, which equalled Australia great Allan Border’s all-time record for successive appearances at this level, was the only England batsman to play an innings of substance, the left-handed opener making 70.
But shortly before tea Cook was bowled by Mohammad Amir, a team-mate when Essex won the County Championship last season, as the left-arm quick produced a brilliant delivery that cut away late off the pitch to clip the top of the off stump.
England, who had been 165 for five at tea, lost their last five wickets for a meagre 16 runs in 27 balls.
Joe Root, the England captain, opted to bat first in the opening match of this two-Test series despite the fact that both sides had concerns over the reliability of their respective top orders.
The overcast skies above Lord’s allied to a green-tinged pitch promised to assist Pakistan’s pacemen but several England batsmen were the architects of their own downfall.
Pakistan were soon in the wickets with Cook looking on as the other three members of England’s top four all fell in single figures.
Abbas made the breakthrough when he bowled Mark Stoneman (four) with a late swinging delivery.
Root, promoted up the order to number three, also fell for four when he drove at a wide ball from Hasan and edged behind to opposing captain Sarfraz Ahmed.
Dawid Malan (six) also fell to the combination of Hasan and wicket-keeper Sarfraz.
England were then 43 for three.
Cook, England’s all-time leading Test run-scorer, benefitted from an ‘umpire’s call’ lbw review verdict on 23 and went to fifty with a four to third man off Amir.
But Jonny Bairstow, promoted up the order to number five, was bowled by Faheem Ashraf for 27.
Ben Stokes, who had hoisted Shadab for six, was lbw on review to Abbas for 38.
And it was not long before England’s 168 for six became 168 for seven.
Pakistan’s close-catching has often been a fallible part of their game.
But the work of team fielding coach Steve Rixon, the former Australia wicket-keeper, was rewarded when Asad Shafiq held a difficult catch at second slip edge after Jos Buttler, recalled as a specialist number seven, edged a drive off Hasan and fell for 14.
The innings ended when Amir held a well-judged catch running back at mid-on to dismiss Mark Wood.
It was the latest memorable Lord’s incident for Amir, who took six wickets in a Test innings at MCC’s headquarters in 2010 — the same match where his involvement in a spot-fixing scandal led to a jail sentence and a five-year ban from cricket.
But this was a moment of unalloyed joy to set alongside Amir’s role in Pakistan’s Test win over England at Lord’s two years ago — a victory that helped them to a 2-2 draw in a four-match series.