Day 2 of the Ageas Bowl Test panned out exactly the way England fans had envisioned - Buttler scored a ton, Crawley hit a double and their side amassed close to 600. England might have delayed their declaration, but, as things stand, it looks like even rain cannot stop Pakistan getting drubbed 2-0.
Brief scores: Pakistan 24/3 (Azam 11 and Anderson 3/13) trail England 583/8 dec (Crawley 267, Buttler 152 and Fawad Alam 2/46) by 559 runs.
Lack of leadership in Pakistan’s pace-attack leaves them red-faced on tough day
Setting foot on English soil with a first-choice pace attack that had just 30 Tests under its belt was always going to be a risk, but Pakistan were willing to look at the optimistic side of things when the series began. An exceptional performance in the first innings at Old Trafford reassured the visitors that they’d got their picks spot on, and although there was a visible lack of direction and leadership amongst the pacers in the second innings, Pakistan chose to overlook it. But after today, you would imagine that the Men in Green have no option but to acknowledge that they messed up - with their combination, with their selection.
Despite the Test being well within their reach at the start of Day 2 - England were 332/4 and the first hour was tricky for batting - there was a conspicuous lack of self-belief within the Pakistan seamers. The youngsters, Naseem and Shaheen, looked lost, while Abbas went about his business as if he cared about only himself, his line and length. Throughout the day, all three pacers - the two youngsters, especially - looked like they were more than happy to just go through the motions and it was as if they’d conceded the Test even before they bowled the first ball on Day 2.
Lack of turn in the wicket meant that Yasir Shah was reduced to being a mere over-filler but really, given he’s played twice as many Tests as the others, Abbas, despite being a trundler, should have led by example and lit the fire inside the youngsters. Leadership in their pace unit is something for Pakistan to ponder over, no question.
When the cameras panned towards Sarfaraz Ahmed in the 146th over, he was sitting next to Shadab Khan, who was in hysterics over an apparent joke he cracked. Sarfaraz’s reaction to Shadab’s joke was telling: he looked uninterested, he sported a straight face and it looked like there were other ‘serious’ thoughts running on the back of his mind. After witnessing Mohammad Rizwan’s masterclass behind the wickets in this Test, it won’t be surprising if Sarfaraz got all serious thinking about his Test future. Right at this moment, it looks like he doesn’t have one.
In terms of pure glovework, it is hard to think of a better performance in recent years - that too by a touring keeper - than Rizwan’s performance in this series and specifically in this Test. Pakistan were on the field for a staggering 154.4 overs and yet his concentration remained unbroken for all 928 balls. He pulled off an exceptional dive to dismiss Root on Day 1, showcased sharp reflexes to stump Crawley deep into Day 2 and basically gobbled up anything and everything that came his way. That Rizwan conceded just four byes - Abbas was to blame for it - in an innings where England scored 583 paints the perfect picture of how flawless a wicket-keeping display it was.
So yes, had I been in Sarfaraz’s shoes, I wouldn’t have laughed at Shadab’s joke, either.
England’s post-Tea approach was, ummm, weird?
You wonder if Zak Crawley is kicking himself right now. “Why did I go for a big hit when I could have batted 30 more overs and got to my triple century?” he must be thinking. Either he is too much of a team man, or there was a breakdown in communication between the skipper and the youngster. For, England’s approach post Crawley’s dismissal - barring Woakes, I’d say - was a bit puzzling to say the least. Buttler, the set man batting on 138* whose game is tailor made to go berserk, made just 14 of his next 33 balls, showing no intent to get a move on, while both Broad and Bess were keen on dispatching only the bad balls.
The approach would have been fathomable had England only been at an okayish score when Crawley departed but by then, they were already 486/5. In fact, post Crawley’s dismissal, England made just 97 off the next 22.2 overs (134 balls), before being forced to declare. On any other day, on any other wicket, in any other city, this approach would have been completely reasonable, but given the unpredictable nature of the Southampton weather, this whole “we will bat as long as we want” ploy from England felt a bit negative.
In all likelihood, England look like they will go on to win this Test with ease, but that said, there is a 70 and 90% chance of rain on Day 4 and Day 5 respectively. Should the Test end as a draw, though, Root will know which phase of the game to look back on.