Ben Duckett says he decided to sweep both ways, and would prefer to get out attacking than defending. On Abrar, he says there’s no mystery, he’s a leggy with a slow googly, and he’s sure the guys will have their pans. “I’m pretty sure I won’t be blocking him,” he offers – it’s amazing how quickly and comprehensively he’s bought into the team ethos – and says that Stokes and McCullum were happy with 281. He recons the game will move quickly, and there’s a proper twinkle in his eye – he is loving life, and rightly so. It’s so affirming to see sportsfolk enjoying themselves.
“I love Flintoff,” emails Mark Parfitt. “In fact, it was he that got me into cricket in the first place. But Stokes is on another level. He is a force of nature that can turn/win games. Flintoff trumps with his bowling, but Stokes is an all-round god!”
I agree that Stokes is a force of nature, but Flintoff was too. What Stokes has that’s different, though, is a presence that inspires me through my screen – never mind the players who are lucky enough to know him personally.
Abrar speaks! He thanks the Almighty, then says it’s not just about today, which was great, but about taking wickets in the games to come. He started his journey in a Karachi academy, then made his way through the levels – Nasser asked him about his journey – then had two years off with injury. Gosh, that must’ve been demanding. He bowled cross-seamers to gauge the pace, he explains, then says that on this track, variation was key, before slipping into English to say his favourite wicket was Ben Stokes and deploying the universal language of the humungous grin. That’s lovely to see – he comes across as a lovely boy – and really, what an absolute day he’s had. Sevenfer, on debut!
“One thing both Flintoff and Stokes have in common,” emails Andy Flintoff, “is that they flog themselves to death as bowlers when captaining. Hopefully this doesn’t cause as many knee issues for Stokes as it did for my namesake.”
In fairness, they’ve both got through plenty of flogging when not captaining too. And another thing they both – and Beefy – share is brilliance in the field. That’s very telling, I think, of the mentality that makes them worth so much more than the sum of their skills.
Pakistan will know that they need to do most of their run-getting in the first innings, because the pitch is doing plenty on day one, never mind later on in the match. England, meanwhile, will know that Babar is the key. He looks in proper touch, and the speed at which he scores can make 281 look very small very quickly.
Bad light stops play with Pakistan 107-2
Thus endeth another day of riveting Test Match CricketTM.
28th over Pakistan 107-2 (Babar 61, Shakeel 32) The umpires meet to discuss the light, then Root returns and three singles ensue, two to Babar and one to Shakeel.
“Could you stomach ‘Jackso’ in the spirit of free compromise?” wonders John Starbuck – and the answer is yes and no. Jackso i sbetter, but really Jacks wants an “ee” not an “o” suffix.
27th over Pakistan 104-2 (Babar 59, Shakeel 31) Babar flicks to midwicket for one, then Shakeel skips down and power-caresses over midwicket for four! And then he goes again, stretching down to slam over wide mid on for four more! That’s the fifty partnership, raised in 81 deliveries.
‘“I don’t really see why that would be your basis of putting Flintoff over Stokes,” says Arul Kanhere. “Wouldn’t it make sense to have a consistent performer over someone who peaks once and then loses steam?”
If we were talking about a series or two, absolutely. But Flintoff was brilliant for years, so I think it’s fair to judge him on that level. We could, though easily argue that Stokes batting more than makes up for the bowling differential.
26th over Pakistan 95-2 (Babar 58, Shakeel 23) Shakeel taps to midwicket for one, then Babar cuts towards point for two and Shakeel adds one more. They’re in no sort of trouble here, and I’d fancy England will try something different pretty soon.
25th over Pakistan 91-2 (Babar 55, Shakeel 22) Again, Babar allows Leach to bowl, seeing away five dots … before rocking back, letting one spin away, and cutting hard for four through backward point. In comms, Athers again cites a lack of overspin as the reason for the dismissal, explaining that without flight, it’s easy for the batter to get into position to play a shot.
24th over Pakistan 87-2 (Babar 51, Shakeel 22) Jacks tosses one up and Shakeel gets right on top of it to defend, before stepping back to cut for a single. We spoke last Test about England nicknames, inspired by Ollie Pope calling Jacks “Jacksie”, but perhaps words have been had, because he’s now deploying Jacko – which I think is against the rules, because his name is Jacks not Jack. I shall be writing the MCC a strongly-worded letter.
23rd over Pakistan 85-2 (Babar 50, Shakeel 21) Babar flicks into the on side for one, raising a classically expert fifty, then Shakeel bops to long on for one more.
22nd over Pakistan 83-2 (Babar 49, Shakeel 20) Shakeel nudges two through cover, and the partnership is 33.
“I know statistics/lies etc,” says Greg Crowther, but picking between Botham and Stokes tricky, agreed. But Flintoff/Stokes is nowhere near. See link….Stokes sits with Sobers, Kallis and Botham as the only four men to have hit 5000 runs and taken 150 wickets…..and he isn’t bottom of either bowling or batting average in this group.”
I think with Flintoff, it’s about how good he was at his peak, which was probably the best I’ve seen. There can be other criteria, but I think that’s my main one.
21st over Pakistan 81-2 (Babar 49, Shakeel 18) Babar is one of those batters who pretty much always looks in control; he’s so composed at the crease. And as I type that, he decides he’s let Jacks bowl enough, so after five dots he waits for one that lands in his arc, gets down on one knee, frees arms … and creams over long on for six!
20th over Pakistan 75-2 (Babar 43, Shakeel 18) Root his the rough and Shakeel has a flash, missing with his drive. But when he gets a short one, he doesn’t miss out, cutting hard through backward point for four. He’s in now, and I wonder if England might give Robinson a go before it gets too dark.
“I am fed up with being told that life is too short for sensitive teeth,” says John Price. “What does it mean? Are they saying if we lived for longer, say to 200, sensitive teeth wouldn’t be a problem? Surely what they should be saying, if they must do this nonsense, is say that life to too long for sensitive teeth. After all, if you are about to die, the last thing you are going to worry about is sensitive teeth. Anyway, I will be making sure that in no circumstances whatsoever, will I ever buy Sensodyne toothpaste of any other associated product.”
Also, what do we experience that’s longer than life? I’d prefer it to be longer, but not sure we can say it’s short.
19th over Pakistan 71-2 (Babar 43, Shakeel 14) The sun sets as Stokes introduces Jacks and Babar eases his loosener to square leg for a single, then Shakeel presses to point and they pilfer another. But have a look! Babar takes one more, then Jacks coaxes one to turn off straight, squaring the batter and hitting his back pad. That’s a beauty! Shakeel, though, is unmoved, cutting the next ball to backward point, and this time Leach does catch up with it as they run three.
18th over Pakistan 65-2 (Babar 41, Shakeel 10) Shakeel has seen enough, twinkling down the track to hoist Leach over midwicket … then after a dot he does the same thing again, flipping with the turn and over the infield for four more. Does Stokes send a fielder back? As if.
17th over Pakistan 57-2 (Babar 41, Shakeel 2) We enjoy a Sensodyne moment, two of the four England fans filmed tucking into ice lollies. Really, they should’ve been biting into them or what’s the point – I say that partly because I’m incapable – and Babar steps down to Root, carting him back over his head for four. He has 41 off 47, and looks in delicious touch.
16th over Pakistan 53-2 (Babar 37, Shakeel 2) Shakeel has a a slip, a leg slip, a short leg and a silly mid off all up in his grille as Leach shuffles in again; he eases back and turns the second ball to square leg for two. Meantime, Nasser points out some rough outside the right-hander’s leg stump, which Leach assiduously avoids.
15th over Pakistan 51-2 (Babar 37, Shakeel 0) Nasser reckons we’ll get another 45 minutes – once the darkness comes, it comes quick – and Root persuades one to turn away from Babar; he’s hitting a groove now.
14th over Pakistan 51-2 (Babar 37, Shakeel 0) Shakeel sees away three dots.
“On Stokes,” tweets James Austin, “as a pure player I’d have him above Flintoff but below Botham. Better bowling average (though not as good a bowler IMO) and far superior batsman. Probably a better bat than Botham as well.”
I can’t put him above Flintoff at this point, because I think his bowling peak was the best I’ve seen from an England player. I agree he’s the best batter of the three, but I don’t think he’s good enough, in Tests, for that to override their bowling. As a bloke, though, he’s the revolution.
WICKET! Shafique c Pope b Leach 14 (Pakistan 51-2)
England looked certain and with good reason! A tiny but perceptible tickle, Pope doesn’t take it cleanly but hangs on, and Pakistan are two down!
14th over Pakistan 51-1 (Shafique 14, Babar 37) Leach persuades one to leave Shafique, England think he’s edged it, the umpire doesn’t … and England review!
13th over Pakistan 51-1 (Shafique 14, Babar 37) Stokes tosses Root the ball, gives him a leg slip and a short leg, and Babar glances around the corner. Leach chases, slides … and potentially scoops the ball away from the Toblerone before clattering into it. The umpires have a look, and right as I’m about to say I think he saved the boundary, they signal four. Three dots follow, then Babar waits for the final delivery, using all of his crease to ease four more through cover. Pakistan are going at a clip here.
12th over Pakistan 43-1 (Shafique 14, Babar 29) Shafique plays away three dots then steps down and away, thrashing Leach for four through cover; his footwork is so deft, and when you team that with strong wrists, fast hands and sharp eyes, you’re talking about a very serious player.
11th over Pakistan 39-1 (Shafique 10, Babar 29) This is Wood’s fourth over and my guess is it’ll be his last … but Babar isn’t mithered to just see it out, slamming his first delivery through mid off for four. A two to midwicket follows, then three dots, before Babar eases away and clobbers four more through point. Ten off the over!
“Mark Ramprakash’s article was spot on,” emails Tone White, “and confirmed my opinion that we are now in the era of BAZ-BO! I think the key to all this is that the players have suddenly remembered that one plays cricket, it is a game, not a political debating society or a car salesroom.”
Yes, I think that’s a big part of it – there’s a playfulness about all of this, the kind of playfulness we lose as adults and with which sportsfolk rarely get to engage, because it’s all so important.
10th over Pakistan 29-1 (Shafique 10, Babar 19) Leach is under a bit of pressure here, because the turn that’s out there means he has to perform. I was really impressed with how he stood up to that in the second innings at Pindi, and he sends down another maiden that doesn’t trouble Shafique unduly, but ups the pressure a tad.
9th over Pakistan 29-1 (Shafique 10, Babar 19) Wood goes short and Shafique stands tall, deflecting around the corner for one, before Stokes approaches him and they have a chat. Then Wood charges in again, slips on release, and I doubt that was the plan– but you can’t be sure. On Stokes, then, where do we rank him? I guess his most obvious comparators are Botham and Flintoff; I’d have him below both as a player, but as a cricketer, I think we could be talking about the most important one of his era, for England at least. Anyhow, Wood tries a short one and Babar flashes at it, sending four through point.
8th over Pakistan 23-1 (Shafique 9, Babar 14) Leach is getting some decent turn here, but Babar is as unfazed as you’d expect, cutting four, and I cannot wait for this next Wood over.
“Dan, what are you doing bringing up the Australian Test that can’t be mentioned again?” wonders Simon Thomas. “I’m never going to get over it.”
We have to talk about these things. It’s a process!
7th over Pakistan 20-1 (Shafique 9, Babar 11) Wood is getting up some pace here and Shafique steps back, inside-edging into the body. So Wood tries a boomp-ah and Shafique goes at it top-edging over fine leg for four … then after a dot he has another shy, looking to lift behind and missing. So Stokes sticks a man on the upper-cut and Wood is really screeching in now, another short one persuading the batter to sway away.
6th over Pakistan 16-1 (Shafique 5, Babar 11) There’s also something I find incredibly moving about the Testvangelism – the idea that they’re protecting something valuable, on behalf of all of us. I can’t imagine the joy of being in that dressing room. Leach, meanwhile, wheels through a maiden, and both batters look like they’re seeing it nicely now.
5th over Pakistan 16-1 (Shafique 5, Babar 11) Yup, Wood into the attack, and Anderson goes for a graze. Did you see Mark Ramprakash’s column this week? I thought it extremely wise on how Stokesy and Baz – yes, we’re boyz – have removed all pressure from their players. And what I’d add to it is that because they’re advocating a manner of play that can be easily adapted to a way of life – be yourself, take attacking options, focus on process not outcome – it’s easy for the rest of us to feel part of it. One off the over.
4th over Pakistan 15-1 (Shafique 5, Babar 10) Again, Leach starts with a half-tracker, and Babar tucks in, cutting through point for four. But again, Leach responds well, hauling the batter forward with one that grips, bounces, and zips by the outside edge. There’s absolutely loads in this pitch, and you can see already, this is going to be a helluva contest. Next ball, Babar knocks through point again and they run three – he’s not going to hang around – and this is intense stuff.
3rd over Pakistan 8-1 (Shafique 5, Babar 3) Where do we rate England’s win in the first Test? Was it more surprising than Adelaide, forever the touchstone for the absurd? I think not, in that from day one, it was always in the imagination if not the perception, whereas Adelaide seemed impossible even on the day that it happened; it seems impossible even now. Looking again at the wicket, it was the extra bounce and away-movement that incited Imam to play, but Babar won’t be thinking about that, and he gets off the mark with three through cover. I don’t think it’ll be long before we see Mark Wood, who must be on a buzz – because he always is, but also because of how nicely he batted.
WICKET! Imam c Pope b Anderson 0 (Pakistan 5-0)
Back of a length from Anderson, a bit of extra bounce, and a feather of an outside edge behind! You may be familiar with the genre!
2nd over Pakistan 5-0 (Shafique 5, Imam 0) It’s Leach opening from the other end, to two slips and a short leg; he begins with a drag-down, and Shafique steps away to cleanse through cover for four. A dot follows, then one grips, turns away from the bat, and beats the forward press; that’s a good ball, and exactly what Leach is seeking.
1st over Pakistan 1-0 (Shafique 1, Imam 0) In comes Anderson and Shafique defends confidently. I loved how he batted in the first innings at Pindi and I’m certain he’ll want to build something here – he won’t be swayed by the Testvangelist method. As for Anderson, meanwhile, he’ll know he’s not got long to make an impression; he sends down five dots, then Shafique turns his final ball to fine leg for a single.
We go again; Jimmy is stretching.
As Tanya noted earlier, SJ Broad is in the studio rocking a look. Mazal tov old mate.
And that is tea. England have been bowled out in 51.4 overs, and again there’s so much time in the game … plus Mark Wood. I cannot wait for this final sesh.
So Wood is left stranded on 36; as I’m sure he’ll remind his mates, the Test record was on. But what about Abrar Ahmed, eh? 7-114 on d’boo is one of the most absurd things I’ve seen since … well since Goncalo Ramos scored a hat-trick on Tuesday night. But this is of similar insanity, and I can’t get enough of trying to pretend I know how he’s feeling.
WICKET! Anderson b Zahid 7 (England 281 all out)
Anderson goes for his reverse again, misses … and Zahid hits! Pakistan would’ve taken this when they lost the toss!
52nd over: England 281-9 (Wood 36, Anderson 7) A single to each batter begins the over…
51st over: England 277-9 (Wood 35, Anderson 6) In comes Abar again, hoping to be Pakistan’s first-ever bowler to take eight on debut. I’ve not seen the like since Peter Such’s sixfer! Anderson takes one to cover, then Wood comes down and wallops four uppishly through mid on – he’s enjoying this – then goes over extra for four more! Is he finished? Of course he isn’t, flinging hands at one outside off that drops fractionally short of the man at 45 – he picked that up late, I think, that should’ve been gone – and the ball races away for four more! This is a terrific innings, absolutely brimming with markwoodness.
“Wonderful to see the debut of a mystery spinner weaving his magic (Arbacadabra?),” says Colum Fordham. “Arbar’s wristy action, flicking the ball out of the front of his hand, is great to watch, and his variations in speed and flight are quite something, as Stokes’ reaction to the googly that got him testify. Seven wickets must be close to a record by a wrist-spinner on debut. Can Leach and Jacks respond in kind? Not so much mystery in their armoury.”
In England’s favour is just how many bowlers they have – but no, considerably less mystery than an Enid Blyton novel.
50th over: England 264-9 (Wood 23, Anderson 5) Anderson takes a single into the on side, then Wood comes down and muscles four through cover … then eases onto one knee and hauls through midwicket for four more! A dot follows, then Zahid drops short and Wood skips back to cart through midwicket again for the third four of the over! DI Gower thinks England are already competitive…
“England’s Achilles heel used to be getting out to the sweep,” says Mark Hooper. “Now it’s the reverse sweep. Progress!”
49th over: England 251-9 (Wood 11, Anderson 4) Here comes Abrar again; how will he respond to the desecration of his debut all-10? Er, just fine; Wood takes him for two forced through cover, then there’s an appeal for one that kicks and hits the pad … but was going well down. I’m not sure what constitutes a competitive score here because the damage has been done by a spinner the like of which England don’t have, but they’ll surely want another 50. Er, good luck with that.
48th over: England 249-9 (Wood 9, Anderson 4) Here comes Zahid with the hat-trick ball … and Anderson defends coming forward … then he unfurls the sweep, getting it fine for four.
WICKET! Leach b Zahid 0 (England 245-9)
Leech tries a colossal reverse-mow – first ball, noch – misses, and Zahid is on a hatty!
WICKET! Robinson c Mohammed Nawaz b Zahid 5 (England 245-8)
Robinson goes again only this time he gets underneath it; Mohammed Nawaz keeps his eye on a steepler and Abrar’s all-10 is ruined but England are in all sorts!
48th over: England 245-7 (Robinson 5, Wood 9) Thanks Tanya and morning everyone. Goodness me! Imagine how Abrar Ahmed is feeling right now; I say imagine, but as if we can! This is one of the most incredible things we’ve ever seen, and it’s not done yet. But it’s Zahid at the other end .. and Robinson hammers him through midwicket for four!
47th over: England 241-7 (Robinson 1, Wood 9) Wood decides that the sword is less risky than the pen and smacks Abrar for two fours. They take drinks and I will hand over to Daniel Harris to take you through to stumps and follow the amazing fairy tale of Abrar Ahmed. Thanks for all the messages – bye!
46th over: England 233-7 (Robinson 1, Wood 0) Arghghg.
”Always interests me how any “new” player can mesmerise a team,” mulls Karen in Slovenia. ”Is it because they haven’t been studied in any depth? Anyway this often happens.Pakistan beware Wood.”
45th over: England 232-7 (Robinson 0, Wood 0) Huge applause for Abrar as he takes his fielding position at the end of the over. Just the seven on debut. Can he take all ten?
WICKET! Jacks lbw Abrar 31 (England 231-7)
Seven for Abrar! Jacks reviews, and why not, but the ball would have trimmed the top bail and it is umpire’s call. “Called Test cricket for a reason you say?” Abrar chews his gum and turns.
44th over: England 229-6 (Jacks 29, Robinson 0) Robinson somehow survives a beauty from Nawaz that blows kisses at the edge of the bat and the top of the stumps.
43rdover: England 228-6 (Jacks 28, Robinson 0) Abrar: 18 non-stop overs, 6 for 89. Stokes dismissed defending diligently.
WICKET! Stokes b Abrar 30 (England 228-6)
Abrar – cadabra indeed! A sixth for Abrar as Stokes pushes forward, misses the googly, and whose mouth forms a perfect “o” of surprise.
42nd over: England 228-5 (Stokes 30, Jacks 28) This time Jacks throws the bat, and cracks Nawaz’s first ball for six. Dainty footwork.