Shortly before before the start of the second Test yesterday, Salman Butt was asked on television about the state of the Pakistan team.
He surveyed the building site that is the Edgbaston ground at present, raised his arms and said, rather poetically, that what was now rather ugly and barely formed would one day be a thing of beauty. Likewise, he added, the team of which he is captain.
It was a rather uplifting analogy and demonstrated that Butt is a thoughtful man who deserves to be given time to nurture his work in progress. Still, it is a moot point which will prove to be reconstructed first, the ground or the team – and after yesterday's exhibition of fragility the smart money would be on the new pavilion.
For the second time in successive Test innings, Pakistan were bowled out in double figures, this time for 72, their lowest score in England. For the third innings in a row they had lost their sixth wicket before their score reached 50. (It was also the third consecutive Test in this country in which a team had been bowled out for under 100, Australia having fallen for 88 against Pakistan last month – what is happening to Test cricket?)
It was Pakistan's grave misfortune to be caught on a pitch playing so many devilish tricks. The slate-grey skies can hardly have helped their demeanour and the ball veered about menacingly, bending like a snake and cutting off the pitch.
In the mood England were in after their thumping victory in the first Test in Nottingham, they could not have asked more. In the mood Pakistan were in, with amendments to the squad, a new leader, conditions so alien that they might as well have been playing on Mars, they could not have asked for less. It must have taken Butt around five minutes to rue his decision to bat and within three hours he and his team had all gone. By the close, they were further out of the contest.
Had it not been for some crass fielding lapses it might have been closer but as it is, England are 40 runs ahead on 112 for 2. There was the hint, no more, that Kevin Pietersen was returning to form. He was dropped on nine when he drove the spin of Saeed Ajmal high to mid-on where Umar Gul did not make the most sterling of efforts to take the catch. His partner, Jonathan Trott, was also put down, on eight, a regulation offering at first slip. It was exactly what Pakistan did not want and could ill afford.
If the tourists could not find the application vital in these horrible conditions, England were extremely impressive. Their three seamers shared the wickets by pitching the ball up and watching it do things so alarming that some witnesses might have wanted to hide behind the couch.
Jimmy Anderson was again the best rewarded when he finished off the innings an hour into the afternoon by taking the last three wickets for one run in 10 balls. But the damage had been inflicted before lunch when the tourists, who had kept faith with their top six and resisted the temptation to play the jet-lagged veteran Mohammad Yousuf, found themselves in deep strife. The thought occurred that Yousuf, in his sleep, could have done no worse.
On reflection, it was a small triumph of concentration and determination that Butt and Imran Farhat lasted for half an hour until the eighth over. They had only scored eight runs but they looked like men who wanted to see it through.
It was Farhat's patience which ended first, having faced 24 balls without scoring when he edged a lifter from Stuart Broad which went across him. That ball encapsulated part of the trouble for the batting side: the pitch was already displaying variable bounce, the bowlers' ideal partner for lateral movement, Rogers to the other's Astaire.
Butt went next, caught at second slip, driving at Steven Finn half-heartedly, his dreams of erecting a many splendoured palace in the shape of the Pakistan team perhaps disappearing with him. Before too long it was 12 for 3 when Matt Prior took an excellent catch diving low in front of first slip and Pakistan were going along at under a run an over. There were no runs to be had.
Azhar Ali can never have seen anything like this – or at least not since Trent Bridge last week – when he was impressing Pakistan's selectors by gathering copious runs for his first-class team, Khan Research Laboratories at home. In its way, his 32-ball, 55- minute, scoreless innings was enviable but it was always going to end one way and it duly did when Broad jagged one back to find him in front.
Azhar thought better of asking for a review, Umar Akmal did similarly and was wrong. Replays showed that the ball from Finn which dismissed him struck him outside off stump and he would have won a reprieve, or at least a stay of execution.
But Pakistan were 33 for 5 and soon 36 for 6 when Zulqarnain Haider, the debutant wicketkeeper who had replaced the pitiable Kamran Akmal, nicked his first ball in Test cricket behind to give Prior his third catch and Broad his third wicket. There followed a gap of 10 overs to the next wicket but they went clattering again.
Paul Collingwood snaffled Umar Amin at third slip (though by then Graeme Swann, not needed to bowl, had dropped one at second slip to ensure that it was not a perfect performance) and Anderson cleaned up the rest from the City End in a matter of 10 balls.
England took some jolly good catches but perhaps none was finer than Alastair Cook's running back from mid-off to dismiss Mohammad Aamer. It was high and swirling but Cook timed his run and the outstretching of his arms to perfection. Neither Cook nor Andrew Strauss were at home when it was England's turn to bat but they offered a platform of kinds which, in yesterday's trying circumstances, was more complete than the Edgbaston pavilion.
First day of five: England lead Pakistan by 40 runs with eight first-innings wickets remaining
Pakistan won toss
Pakistan First Innings
I Farhat c Prior b Broad: 0
*S Butt c Swann b Finn: 7
40 balls 1 four
A Ali lbw b Broad: 0
S Malik c Prior b Anderson: 3
U Akmal lbw b Finn: 17
29 balls 1 four 1 six
U Amin c Collingwood b Broad: 23
47 balls 3 fours
†Z Haider c Prior b Broad: 0
M Aamer c Cook b Anderson: 12
39 balls 1 four
U Gul c Pietersen b Anderson: 0
S Ajmal not out: 5
9 balls 1 four
M Asif c Pietersen b Anderson: 0
Extras (lb 4, nb 1): 5
Total (39.3 overs): 72
Fall: 1-8 (Farhat), 2-9 (Butt), 3-12 (Malik), 4-29 (Ali), 5-33 (Akmal), 6-36 (Haider), 7-63 (Amin), 8-64 (Gul), 9-67 (Aamer), 10-72 (Asif).
Bowling: J Anderson 14.3-6-20-4 (nb1), S Broad 17-7-38-4, S Finn 8-3-10-2.
England First Innings
*A Strauss c Haider b Aamer: 25
40 balls 2 fours
A Cook c Akmal b Asif: 17
35 balls 3 fours
J Trott not out: 31
68 balls 4 fours
K Pietersen not out: 36
64 balls 5 fours
Extras (lb 2, nb 1): 3
Total (2 wkts, 34.2 overs): 112
Fall: 1-44 (Cook), 2-44 (Strauss).
To Bat: P D Collingwood, E J G Morgan, †M J Prior, G P Swann, S C J Broad, J M Anderson, S T Finn.
Bowling: M Aamer 10.2-2-36-1 (3-0-21-0, 6-2-12-1, 1.2-0-3-0), M Asif 10-1-23-1 (one spell), U Gul 6-1-14-0 (nb1) (2-0-5-0, 4-1-9-0), S Ajmal 7-0-32-0 (1-0-1-0, 6-0-31-0), U Amin 1-0-5-0 (one spell).
Umpires: S J Davis (Aus) & M Erasmus (SA)
TV replay umpire : A L Hill (NZ)
Match referee: J W Lloyds (Eng)Reuse content