Pakistan batsmen have shown the way to handle England bowlers, whose performances not have been up to the mark since quite sometime in Test cricket. To bring that to light, the visitors heaped misery after taking the leaf out of Australia, when they plundered the Englishmen for aplenty in the Ashes. Collective Pakistan batting against England was a visual treat.
Four batsmen got to half-centuries at Lord’s on Day Two and the approach looked so pleasing to the eye. Babar Azam was the standout performer with a classy 68 before retiring hurt. The Asian giants will be hoping he comes out to bat and get the lead swelling. A 166-run lead already looms over England as Pakistan has taken the initiative in the two-match Test series.
Pakistan got a good look at the conditions in their UK tour and the win against Ireland gave them plenty of confidence to have a crack at England. Disciplined batting was pleasing to watch as Pakistan held the graft and craft.
Pak batsmen on top at Lord’s
England is on a 13-match winless streak away from home and now they are in danger of missing out on home too. One could have stated that they lacked the tools in unfamiliar conditions prior to this Test, but the situation at Lord’s is a worrying one. After Pakistan outwitted the hosts with the ball, the performance by the batsmen served as a topping on the cake.
The likes of Azhar Ali (50), Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq (59) and Shadab Khan (52) kept the English bowlers at bay and ensured there was not much damage done. The visitors were in dire need of partnerships in the middle-order that they got.
England has been outfought with the bat and Pakistan have shown the concentration and control that was beyond the hosts. The players left balls with good judgement and defending solidly. England ran out of patience at times and that’s when they cashed in.
What stood out was in the manner Faheem Ashraf and Shadab Khan constructed their innings and put up the 72-run partnership in the final session. They confident in their strokes and not for a moment they made viewers feel that they are new to Test cricket.
Azhar, Babar the torch-bearers
33-year-old Azhar Ali is the main asset for Pakistan. Playing in his 64th Test, the player notched his 28th Test fifty. A player that hit a commanding 139 against England in Birmingham in 2016, knows the conditions well. This is his third tour of England. His 136-ball 50 was a standout show that laid the foundation of the Pak innings. Being a senior member of the side, Ali handled the new ball with precision against the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
The youngster is just 13 Tests old, but if Ali has to pass the baton to anyone in the side, it is Babar Azam. The 23-year-old can learn so much form Azhar and apply the same attributes. Babar made his debut in 2016 and has a long way to go in Tests. He has shown his credibility against New Zealand earlier away from home, and now he has built on that in his first England tour.
Pak heading to an exciting future
What looks exciting for Pakistan is that players are willing to take responsibility. When set batsmen fell, one would have expected the Pak batting to have a panic situation. But no, they stood tall and showed they are here to play an exciting brand of cricket. Things look good under leader Sarfraz Ahmed, who demands 100% from his side all the time.
With the squad they have in their kitty, it shows they are in for the long haul. The T20I performances that have helped them be number one and the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy victory have rubbed off on their shoulders. Pakistan has a lot of limited-overs cricket lined up and post that awaits the tour of South Africa. If they can go on to do well against England, that will be crucial for their chances in the rainbow nation.
Is Pakistan finding their way back in Tests?
Pakistan is ranked a lowly seventh in the ICC Test rankings, but with performances such as this, there lies a promising path. The pace bowling attack could be touted as one of the best in the world and now the batting too looks in shape. The victory against Ireland was just the start, and now they are building on from that.
For Test cricket to survive, one needs a team like Pakistan to do well away from Asian conditions and that’s slowly finding its feet. The likes of Mohammad Abbas and Hasan Ali were daunting with the ball and with Mohammed Amir leading the quartet, Pak look ominous with the ball. Now if their batting gets the consistency needed in Tests, they could walk away with games.