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Pakistan again showed England how to play in their own conditions as they maintained their dominant position in the first Test at Lord’s.
The tourists scored 300 runs in Friday’s play, going from an overnight 50 for one to 350 for eight at stumps on the second day of this two-match series.
That left them already 166 runs ahead of England’s meagre first-innings 184, with Pakistan having so far outplayed their hosts in all departments.
A quartet of batsmen made fifties, with England dropping four catches on Friday and missing one other obvious chance — a marked contrast to an impressive display by an often-criticised Pakistan slip cordon.
Their had been hopes a return home would boost Joe Root’s men following their recent series losses in Australia and New Zealand.
But after two days at the ‘home of cricket’, England were struggling to avoid a sixth defeat in eight Tests.
Pakistan, whose players are effectively banned from the Indian Premier League, had arguably had better preparation for this series than that enjoyed by England’s Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler while they were playing in the lucrative Twenyty20 event.
In addition to three county warm-up matches, Pakistan beat Test debutants Ireland in Dublin last week, a match that featured similarly overcast and bowler-friendly conditions to those present for much of the first two days at Lord’s.
Experienced opener Azhar Ali laid the platform for Pakistan’s reply with a well-made 50.
Asad Shafiq (59) and Babar Azam, who made 68 before retiring hurt, kept the runs coming before Shadab Khan (52) hit his second half-century in three Tests.
Their efforts followed on from the disciplined and skilled bowling of Pakistan pacemen Mohammad Abbas and Hasan Ali, who took four wickets apiece on Thursday.
Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur was proud of his side’s efforts but warned there was much still to be done if they were to go 1-0 up in the series.
“We’ve had two good days and we’ll enjoy them, but we’ve got a hell of a lot of work still to do,” he told Sky Sports.
“Preparation was good but execution is another thing. I couldn’t be more proud of my bowlers.”
The former South Africa and Australia coach added: “We wanted runs from everybody. I’m really pleased with the way we fought.
“If we can get another 25 on top of that and do exactly what we did in the first innings — bowl in the right areas and apply some pressure — then we’ve got a really good chance.”
Meanwhile, England paceman Mark Wood admitted the hosts had been outplayed, saying: “It was hard toil from our point of view.
“So far, they’ve out-bowled and out-batted us.”
Pakistan resumed Friday with Azhar 18 not out and Haris Sohail 21 not out.
The second-wicket duo defended soundly and attacked when appropriate before Wood, who had tried to ‘rough up’ the batsmen with short-pitched deliveries, eventually ended a stand worth 75 runs when Haris (39) edged a rare full-length ball to wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow.
Azhar completed a patient 133-ball fifty but was still on 50 when lbw to James Anderson, England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker.
Shafiq though hoisted debutant off-spinner Dominic Bess for six and Pakistan were 136 for three at lunch.
Alastair Cook, in his usual position of first slip, dropped Babar on 10 when he failed to hold a low chance.
Shafiq went to fifty and was then dropped on 59 by a diving Buttler in the gully.
But next ball Shafiq lobbed Stokes to Dawid Malan in the slips.
Babar, whose fifty took 93 balls, retired hurt after pace-bowling all-rounder Stokes struck him on the wrist.
England took the new ball but Shadab and Faheem Ashraf kept the scoreboard ticking over in what was a first match at Lord’s for both the young all-rounders.
Ashraf though was missed on 29 when he edged Wood between Bairstow and Cook for a catch that belonged to the keeper.
Shadab on 30 then presented Cook with a seemingly simple chance off Anderson only for the former skipper to put down the two-handed catch.
He completed a 62-ball fifty, including six fours, before a gloved hook off Stokes was well held down the legside by Bairstow in a rare England fielding highlight. – AFP