Pakistan Tour of England, First Test at Emirates Old Trafford, Day 1: Pakistan 139 for 2 in 49 overs (Babar Azam 69*, Shan Masood 45*) vs England
An unbeaten partnership of 96 between Babar Azam and Shan Masood for the third wicket put visitors Pakistan in command against England on a rain curtailed first day of the first Test match at Emirates Old Trafford.
Pakistan had scored 139 for 2 when the umpires decided to call an end to days play due to want of light, a familiar story this English summer.
When Babar joined in Masood just after an hour of play, England bowlers had been leading the contest between willow and leather, and Pakistan were reeling on 43/2 in 18.1 overs.
Chris Woakes, who had just got better off fabled Azhar Ali on naught, welcomed Babar with the bowl of the day- a ball which darted in since it left the hand and moved away just too much on pitching. Babar Azam ended up squared but luckily didn’t find an edge.
Earlier on a drier looking Old Trafford pitch, Azhar Ali won the toss and opted to bat. Something that Jason Holder avoided all throughout in the series last month. A decision which England captain would have also made had he won the toss.
Babar takes toll
In the first hour of play, the England bowlers beat the bat on a number of occasion and continued to bowl a steady line and length up until lunch. However, post-lunch the very bowlers erred only to allow Babar Azam, who had looked circumspect scoring just 2 of 26 balls before lunch, score freely with grace.
Babar took a full toll of the English bowlers. As Anderson strayed on the pads and Broad bowled way to sort, Babar drove through mid-on and punched off the back foot, even cutting in his trademark way. He brought up his 14th half-century in 70 balls, scoring the last 48 runs in 44 balls in the hour post-lunch.
However, Chris Woakes, the pick of the English bowlers, was strangely missing from action in the post-lunch session even as the Pakistan batsmen made good of loose deliveries.
Well, it wasn’t a Babar alone. The batsmen at the other played a perfect foil for Babar Azam to play his game.
Shan Masood, who had been troubled by Anderson and co. on the 2016 tour, played cautiously leaving balls outside his off-stump and scoring as when the English bowlers offered him an opportunity.
The opener is a much-improved player than on his last tour of England. Since 2018, he has scored 669 runs at an average of 47.78, an improvement over his career average of 32.47.
Shan Masood occupied the crease and frustrated the bowlers. His 135 ball stay at the wicket was a first by any opener in England in the first innings of a Test since 2016.
He offered two opportunities against Dom Bess and both were missed by Jos Buttler behind the wickets.
The first when a ball bounced enough to find a faint edged but didn’t stick into Buttler’s gloves and the second when he advanced down the wicket and ended missing up. Both the opportunities came and went down when the batsman was on 45.
When England walk out on the second day, the weather won’t be an errant, it has to be seen if the English bowlers can be return back to their best- bowling full- or the Pakistan batsmen lead by Babar Azam continue their onslaught on a wicket suited for batting.