If there were any doubts about how well prepared Pakistan were to challenge England in this series, they should have now been dispelled. The progress made by Alastair Cook’s side has hinged on their ability to seize key moments in a Test but at Lord’s they have come up against experienced and skilful opposition who refused to buckle when the pressure mounted.
A second five-wicket haul from Chris Woakes – giving him ten in the match for the first time in Tests – provided the spearhead for England’s efforts to wrest back control after Pakistan had secured a valuable first-inning lead on a pitch that was beginning to exhibit signs of variable bounce. Punchy 40s from Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed kept England at arm’s length, however, and they were facing a target approaching 300 and prolonged fourth-innings examination at the hands of Yasir Shah in order to win the first Test.
Sarfraz was dropped on 36 by Jonny Bairstow, another unwanted entry on his wicketkeeping ledger, and his seventh-wicket partnership with Yasir, promoted up the order after taking 6 for 72 in England’s innings, took the score on by another 40 valuable runs. Woakes then chipped out Sarfraz and Wahab Riaz in his third demanding spell as stumps approached to leave the contest finely poised.
England have won only one of their last five Tests at Lord’s and, with the sun beating down on basking MCC members, they had to fight tooth and nail to prevent another match drifting away from them. None of the five completed first-class matches on the ground this season had produced a result – no team had even managed 20 wickets – but that sequence is set to end.
When Pakistan were 60 for 4 during the afternoon England had visions of inducing a complete collapse but a strange, staccato innings from Younis Khan nevertheless managed to hold things together. Frequently jumping into position, playing the ball with one or both legs in the air and appearing about as comfortable as a man trying to fight his way through a hedge, he survived two lbw reviews on DRS and fought his way to 25 from 95 balls before being the fifth man out, chopping Moeen Ali on to his stumps during the evening session.
His 69-run partnership with Shafiq prevented Pakistan from being ambushed after they had lost 3 for 16, including captain Misbah-ul-Haq for a two-ball duck. Shafiq was by far the more fluent, although he needed some luck early on, seeing a delivery from Moeen miss everything after spinning inside a drive and then edging Jake Ball wide of a motionless James Vince at third slip. His next delivery was crunched more authoritatively through point for four more and he mixed attack and defence well until Woakes speared a delivery between bat and pad to hit the off bail.
Woakes was curiously held back by Cook, despite taking six wickets in the first innings, but he made the breakthrough after lunch with a well-executed plan to have Shan Masood taken at slip. Having bowled a series of deliveries coming back into the left-hander, then drawing him into the drive with one pitched up, Woakes shortened his length and pushed the ball across to take the outside edge.
With Azhar Ali and Younis becalmed, Woakes struck again. For the second time in match, Azhar left the field shaking his head after a failed with a review against a tight lbw decision, Hawk-Eye siding with umpire Joel Wilson’s decision that the ball would have gone on to clip leg stump.
Cook had brought Moeen into the attack without delay, perhaps as a show of faith in his spinner, and he burned a review for a bat-pad catch against Azhar two balls before lunch. Moeen returned in the afternoon and he gained a measure of revenge for his first-innings chasing by Misbah when Pakistan’s captain attempted to impose himself again and sent his second ball high towards deep midwicket, where Alex Hales took a good running catch.
Pakistan’s top order had been corralled into a corner, with England taking three wickets at a cost of 20 runs in 15 overs after lunch. They used their second review shortly after against Younis, who had succeeded in getting a bit of bat on a delivery from Ball to save him from being lbw; and it was then nearly 75 for 5, when Wilson eventually raised his finger to Younis, who jumped across to be hit in front of leg stump in Finn’s third over. DRS overturned the umpire’s decision this time, with the ball shown to be going ever-so-slightly high and wide.
The morning had been unquestionably Pakistan’s, after they gained a 67-run lead on first innings and then increased that beyond three figures for the loss of Mohammad Hafeez – whose ill-judged slash at Stuart Broad resulted in a sharp catch to second slip – in 17 overs against the new ball.
England would have hoped to get closer to Pakistan’s first-innings total but Yasir took his tally to six wickets and Woakes was left stranded as the last three wickets fell 12 runs inside four overs.
Misbah began with a combination of Wahab’s pace and Yasir’s wiles and the pair saw off England’s innings within 40 minutes of the first session. Broad struck one boundary off Wahab but was then worked over by a succession of short balls, before a brace of yorkers ended his stay. The first flew through past leg stump but Broad did not heed the warning and hung back again to be bowled off his boot next ball.
Finn has been known to block up an end and Woakes was happy to let him have the strike but he fell to Yasir, trapped in front of leg stump by a ball that skidded on. That gave Yasir the first six-for by a Pakistan bowler in England since Mohammad Amir at this ground six years ago, and the first by a spinner since Mushtaq Ahmed at The Oval in 1996. It was also the 82nd wicket of his short Test career – the most by any player after 13 matches.
Ball sliced a four off Yasir for his first Test runs but he was run out from the first ball of the next over, with Woakes pushing for two to retain the strike. Wahab completed the dismissal at the bowler’s end and Pakistan were congratulating themselves on a job well done before the third umpire confirmed Ball’s fate.