If England wish to hold all nine Test series trophies in their mitts - they only need Pakistan to complete the full house – they need to snaffle every chance that comes their way, especially if they are playing on wickets as benign as this Lord’s one.
On day one of the first Test here they let three go, two drops and a missed run out, one in each session, and Misbah-ul-Haq, the veteran Pakistan captain, punished them for missing the latter two by going on to make a marvellous unbeaten century, the 10th of his Test career and leading his side to the happy heights of 282 for 6 at close. He will head down the pavilion steps on Friday morning on 110.
For all England will rue their sloppiness the 42-year-old Misbah batted brilliantly if not beautifully. The old man of the Pakistan team has rebuilt their confidence and their world standing following the horrors of the spot-fixing tour to England in 2010.
On Thursday he was dogged against the seamers, punishing anything loose – of which Steven Finn offered plenty – and took Moeen Ali’s spin apart with his sweeping (he slapped four boundaries in one over, two swept, two reverse swept as he and Asad bought up their hundred partnership). Misbah marked his century by proving that age is merely a number, dropping on to his palms and cracking out 10 quick push-ups at the Pavilion End to the delight of the Pakistan balcony and the crowd alike. He is the third oldest man to make a ton at Lord’s after Warren Bardsley and Jack Hobbs who were both a year older.
His partner in crime – if that is not inappropriate– Asad was the easier on the eye as the pair put on 148 for the fifth wicket. Asad is neat and compact and played some wonderful off-drives (one off Jake Ball was a beauty) and punished anything short by Ali by rocking back and cutting him to the boundary. He eventually fell late in the day to Chris Woakes armed with the new ball for 73 when he edged to Jonny Bairstow trying to leave the ball. Woakes took a fourth wicket with the day’s final ball when the nightwatchman Rahat Ali dragged on.
Mishbah’s celebration was a joy to watch but it should never have been. Joe Root put the Pakistan captain down when he was on 16. It was a tough chance, low to his left at slip off the bowling of Finn, but Root was nowhere near, the ball smacking into his wrist.
Gary Ballance was next up, missing a run out chance when both Misbah and Asad were heading towards the press box. In the confusion, Ballance threw at the wicketkeeper’s end and had he hit Misbah would have been out for 58 but he could have moonwalked to the bowler’s end and knocked the bails off.
James Vince was the guilty party in the morning, although his error proved not to be too costly. He spilled a tricky chance low to his left at slip – like Root’s - off the bowling of Stuart Broad. Hafeez was on 11 and made 40 but Vince has now dropped four of six chances in his short international life. Given he has only made 54 runs he is probably the only overdrawn Test cricketer in history.
None of the three were the worst crimes ever committed on this square – Mohammad Amir and friends probably have that dubious honour – but they could cost England dear. Only once in the last 23 Tests at Lord’s has the team batting first lost and Pakistan are unbeaten in their last five Tests when having first dig against England.
England had probably shaded the first two sessions, taking two wickets in each on a flat deck, but Pakistan, who were 158 for 4 at tea, pulled away in the evening as the first blows were landed in what promises to be an exhilarating series.
Pakistan won the toss and opted to bat– denying the Lord’s crowd the chance to see the returning miscreant Amir in action with ball in hand. Broad had been critical of the Lord’s track in the build-up to this Test, saying that it lacked bounce and his opening delivery dribbled through at ankle height to Bairstow. It was hardly the type of ball to instil fear in the batsmen even if it was a 79mph loosener.
Chris Woakes took both wickets to fall in the morning, removing Pakistan’s Shan Masood for a watchful seven when the left-hander edged to Bairstow behind the stumps. 38 for 1 became 51 for 2 when the Warwickshire man struck again dismissing Hafeez who spooned a leading edge high in the air that Bairstow ran round to catch at square leg. Woakes is growing into his role as a Test player and will give the selectors pause for thought if Ben Stokes is fit for the second Test at Old Trafford next week.
Ball, who took the new ball, was impressive on debut. The Nottinghamshire bowler’s second delivery almost trapped Masood lbw. England reviewed the decision but the ball had just pitched outside leg. He had more joy in his first over after lunch nabbing his maiden Test wicket with a ripper: a toe-crunching yorker which knocked Azhar, on seven, off his feet. The right-hander reviewed the lbw –eventually; he took so long the incoming batsman was in danger of being timed out - but the ball was clipping leg stump.
With a combined age of 80 and 165 Tests between them, Younus Khan and Misbah, had looked like they would be the pair to take England out of the game but after they had put on 57 Broad struck with an innocuous 80mph delivery. Younus chipped it to Ali at midwicket. It was a gift.
England bowled admirably apart for Finn who looked at all sea on occasions. There were signs in the last Test against Sri Lanka - also here at his home ground - that he was recovering some rhythm but he was wayward on Thursday. Finn’s confidence might have been helped had Root taken his catch but England can ill afford to be a man light on tracks like these and with a foe as determined as Misbah at the other end.
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