Halfway into the first session, England were getting helmet reinforcements to the dressing room. Sky Cricket ensured there was a nice, long shot of the support staff walking along the boundary lines, big cartons carrying helmets suspended from his two hands. Shane Warne even cracked a pizza box joke on air but it wasn’t so light-hearted out in the middle. Naseem Shah, much younger than Shoaib Akhtar but possibly cut out from the same cloth, had just hit Chris Woakes on the helmet. Ollie Pope had succumbed to a totally unplayable ball in the same over. Things were tense.
That England would then go on to lose six wickets to the leg spin of Yasir Shah (4 for 66) and Shadab Khan (2 for 13) came as a bit of surprise. Yes, there was plenty of turn and bounce, as Dom Bess would find out later in the day too, but the morning portended a very different day in-store. Younis Khan, scribbling away in his notebook and who possibly had a say in team selection, would be glad it was what it was.
The hosts had settled into the right template early in the day. Taking a cue from Pakistan, who had scored at 1.84 runs per over yesterday morning, Pope and Jos Buttler started slowly. Very slow in fact, adding only 19 runs across 14 overs in the first hour of play. Come the other side of the drinks break, they had even started pinching aggressive singles, which were more than inspired by what Shadab Khan and Shan Masood did all afternoon yesterday. But Pope’s dismissal put paid to those plans.
It was all Yasir Shah after lunch from thereon. Buttler was bowled by a leg break that didn’t spin and sneaked through the bat-pad gap, Bess was caught at slip by a flying Asad Shafiq (leading to some real photoshop surge on Twitter) and Woakes was bowled by a quicker delivery. England had lost three quick wickets after lunch for only 11 runs when Shadab logged in, taking out Jofra Archer (caught behind) and James Anderson (leg before). It was Stuart Broad’s 29 not out off 25 balls that got England past 200, else the lead was set to be much bigger.
Pakistan weren’t quite as impressive second time around with the bat, finding themselves 137 for 8, but they wouldn’t mind one bit the help that was on offer from the pitch. Of course, that wouldn’t concern Masood, who was strangled by Broad down the leg-side, or Abid Ali, who saw one ball from Dom Bess spin and took on the next with a terminal slog-sweep.
England’s host of other fast bowlers — which also included Ben Stokes, surprise surprise — then got into the act. Woakes worked out Babar Azam to slip and Azhar Ali in front of the stumps before Ben Stokes bounced out Shaheen Afridi. Sandwiched between was Dom Sibley’s crucial run out of Asad Shafiq, then batting on 29, which remains the highest score in the second innings. It must have been cathartic for the home side, that run out, given how easily they have conceded singles to Pakistan in this Test match.
A lead of 244, made prettier by Mohammad Rizwan’s busy 27 off 43, could well prove to be enough. At least that’s what a 14-wicket day suggests. But be prepared for more helmet reinforcements on the fourth day. And possibly fifth. This is one of those Test match pitches and this is one of those Test matches.
Brief Scores: Pakistan 326 & 137/8 (Asad Shafiq 29, Mohammad Rizwan 27; Chros Woakes 2-11, Ben Stokes 2-11, Stuart Broad 2-23) lead England 219 (Ollie Pope 62, Jos Buttler 38; Yasir Shah 4-66, Mohammad Abbas 2-33, Shadab Khan 2-13) by 244 runs.