England assert dominance despite Pakistan fightback

The second day at Headingley epitomised why Pakistan and England are ranked fifth and seventh in the world respectively. Neither team was excellent, neither team was poor. There were good and bad moments for each but by the close, neither had shown the best of what they can do. It could have been better for England. It could have been better for Pakistan. As it is, it is the home side who are top but that owed much to their efforts on the first day rather than the second.
England began the day 68 runs behind Pakistan with eight wickets remaining. Barring an almighty collapse – which can never be ruled out with this England team – a first innings lead was assured but the question was how many would the hosts get in front. Would it be just something to work with or would it be a dominating lead?
Given they haven’t won a Test since last September, England will probably be very happy with the 128-run advantage they had at stumps with the chance to add to it tomorrow. But they will also be frustrated that all of the top seven batsman got to 20 but not one passed 50. The highest score was Dom Bess’s 49 and had one of the top order gone on, England’s lead would have been impregnable.
As it is, Pakistan have a sniff if they can wrap up the last three wickets quickly tomorrow. The visitors fought back gamely in the final session after a disappointing opening, taking four wickets, but a simple drop of Jos Buttler by Hasan Ali when England’s number seven had just four was the key moment of the day. Buttler was unbeaten at the close and Pakistan had wasted a huge opportunity.
Pleasingly, given England’s careless batting at Lord’s, of the five wickets to fall today, only that of the captain Joe Root can be attributed to a poor shot while the other four wickets fell to good bits of bowling. After tea in particular Pakistan produced some fine deliveries to remove Dawid Malan, Bess and Jonny Bairstow which brought them back into the game after a disappointing opening session which had yielded just the one wicket. With more a bit more luck, the tourists could have had a couple more wickets late on too.
The first session was totally lost to rain which seldom halted from early morning. 31 overs were wiped off the day’s play but when play started at 2.45pm local time, it was England who took the initiative with a fast start. They scored 26 runs in the opening 24 balls but their charge was halted when Root played a loose drive to Mohammad Amir and was caught behind in the fifth over. The ball hardly seemed to deviate and Root’s shot was no more than a flat footed push at the ball. Walking off, England’s captain tellingly practised leaving the ball. While it wasn’t as poor a dismissal as in the first innings at Lord’s, it was not a good shot so early in proceedings.
Bess, sent in the previous evening as nightwatchman, didn’t look out of place at number four, driving Amir through the covers early on, a shot greeted with a chorus of “Roooooot” from the Headingley crowd who had mistaken the 20 year-old Somerset off-spinner for England’s captain. Together, Bess and Malan had erased the deficit and moved England to a lead of 25 by tea and Malan, under pressure after a row of low scores, played nicely including two lovely drives through the off-side.
His innings was cut short in the second over after the interval, however, by a good one from Amir who found extra bounce from a good length which the left-hander could do nothing with but edge to slip for 28. It was just the start Pakistan had needed after a lacklustre first session with the ball. The extravagant movement of the first day was absent and batting had begun to look relatively easy during Bess and Malan’s 62 run partnership. After tea, it was a different story.
Shortly after Malan was dismissed, Bess was on his way after leg-spinner Shadab Khan also found some more bounce to have the right-hander caught at slip just one run short of his second Test half-century in as many matches. The performances of Bess with the bat in both Tests have shown a confident young man willing to battle hard and a batsman with some classy looking shots in his locker. He will know, however, that ultimately he will be judged as a Test player on what he does with the ball.
Two wickets for 12 runs had got Pakistan right back into the match and had Hasan not dropped a sitter at midwicket off Jos Buttler, the visitors would have taken three for 20. It was an awful hoick from Buttler which should have been taken but after that aberration, he settled down, mixing aggression with calmness just as he had in the second innings at Lord’s. Importantly, he will be there tomorrow morning as England look to eke out as larger lead as they can.
There was more joy for Pakistan before the day was over, though. Bairstow, caught behind off a good piece of bowling from Faheen Ashraf, and Chris Woakes, caught in similar fashion from a good ball from the subdued Mohammad Abbas, were dismissed before the close but Sam Curran played some nice shots late on to move England’s lead to 128 and leave them well on top.
Brief ScoresPakistan 174 trail England 302/7 (Dominic Bess 49, Alastair Cook 46, Faheem Ashraf 2-43) by 128 runs.Source:@Cricbuzz

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