England dominant but Pakistan fight back

In my post yesterday, I said that the second test was “in the balance” and that a good start to day 2 would be key for both teams. Whoever got the best start to the day would effectively put themselves in the box seat for the match, and the series.

England’s first task was to dismiss the in-form skipper Misbah-ul-Haq and the tail enders before they could amass too big a score. Pakistan resumed on 256-7, with the skipper joined by Pakistan spin king Saeed Ajmal at the crease. After hitting a single off the first ball of the day, Pakistan collapsed. The first man to go was the dangerous Misbah. Stuart Broad continued from his excellent performance yesterday to remove Misbah LBW for 84.

With the score at 1 for 1 for the day, England looked to rip through the tail and start their innings. Up stepped Jimmy Anderson. After a day with no return yesterday, Anderson made amends by mopping up the tail, first by removing Ajmal LBW for 0 and two balls later finding the shoulder of Junaid Khan’s bat for Swann to take the catch. Pakistan 257 all out, scoring just one run for the three wickets lost at the start of day 2. The perfect start for England.

Taking to the crease sooner and in a better position than anyone could have imagined, Strauss and Cook entered the field as an opening pair for a landmark 100th occasion. Only three pairs in test match history have opened the innings more times than the English pair. However, it wasn’t the champagne partnership that the pair would have liked. After seeing off the opening spell of Khan, opening batsman Hafeez took the ball and got his reward. The skipper Strauss inside edged the ball onto his pad, only for the ball to balloon into the hands of Shafiq at short-leg. 27-1.

The fall of Strauss bought Jonathan Trott to the crease to join Alastair Cook. The pair coped well with the spinning ball for the majority of the first two sessions, putting England into a good position. Cook was dropped at short-leg in the 40’s and Trott has a spot of fortune as Misbah failed to review an LBW decision that would have been overturned, before wasting two reviews shortly after.

The pair battled through the tough conditions, amassing an impressive partnership of 139 before Trott fell for 74. After hitting away a long-hop to the boundary, the left-arm spinner Rehman got his man spinning the ball passed the edge of Trott’s bat to clip the top of his off stump. The delivery was worthy of his wicket.

This was the turning point in the final session. The Pakistan spinners began to look extremely dangerous, beating the outside edge on numerous occasions. England’s fragile middle-order was now exposed to the dangerous Ajmal. And boy, did he join the party. After Cook had battled his way to a solid 94, Ajmal trapped him plum in front and the decision was given.

Ajmal wasn’t done there. He continued troubling Pietersen and Bell, until Pietersen was unluckily caught at slip. He inside-edged the ball onto his own pad, the wicketkeeper deflected the ball with his glove into the hands of Hafeez. England’s woes didn’t stop there. Morgan fell on the stroke of stumps, once again caught at slip off the bowling of Ajmal, who finished the day with figures of 3-67.

England fell from 166-1 before Trott fell to 207-5 at the close, just 50 runs behind Pakistan. However, losing 4 wickets for 75 runs in the evening session has seriously weakened the extremely strong position that Cook and Trott had built. It is going to be a tough task for Bell and the lower middle order to build on the total with the conditions suiting Ajmal and co so well.

So despite England seemingly dominating much of day 2, the late brace from Pakistan has left the game still finely poised. I would put England at slight favourites for the match, but it is very dependent upon how Bell, Prior and the tail bat in the morning. This game definitely is heading towards a result, but could go either way.

Feel free to give feedback or comment on Twitter @naspearing or in the comments section below.

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