Recent Match Report – England vs Pakistan 2nd Test 2022/23

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Close Pakistan 202 (Babar 75, Shakeel 63, Leach 4-98) and 198 for 4 (Shakeel 54*, Faheem 3*) need another 157 runs to beat England 281 (Duckett 63, Pope 60, Abrar 7-114) and 275 (Brook 108, Abrar 4-120)

For the best part of 32 overs, Imam-ul-Haq and Saud Shakeel thwarted an England attack that had been buoyed by a trio of superb deliveries in the first hour after lunch, to take a stiff Pakistan chase down to a potentially gripping fourth-day climax, and keep England’s hope of a famous series win on ice for another day … and potentially another Test.

But then, with the shadows lengthening, and England starting to sweat on a route through a doughty 107-run stand for the fourth wicket, Imam leaned into an expansive drive out of the rough against Jack Leach, and scuffed a fast edge to Joe Root at slip to fall for 60 and crank the door ajar once more.

Though Saud Shakeel endured to the close on 54 not out in partnership with Faheem Ashraf, the equation at stumps was simple. Six more wickets for England to take a 2-0 series lead with Karachi still to come, or 157 runs for Pakistan to draw level at 1-1 with their second-highest successful Test run chase of 355.

It had been another gripping day of ebb-and-flow Test cricket, with Pakistan’s evening alliance mirroring their free-flowing opening stand of 64 in 15 overs before lunch, in which Mohammad Rizwan – promoted to open after Imam was sent for a scan on a damaged hamstring – and Abdullah Shafique saw off the new ball at a brisk tempo of 4.27 an over.

Prior to that, England themselves had effectively auto-completed their second innings, with Harry Brook’s second Test century the highlight of a fast-forwarded hour of batting in which they lost their last five wickets for the addition of 73 runs. Despite the Test still having the best part of nine sessions to run at that stage, England’s approach reflected their belief that the surface still had plenty to offer their own bowlers, and – as with their 342-run declaration in Rawalpindi – by leaving Pakistan a nominally feasible target of 355, they would be all the better placed to induce errors.

And, as had also been displayed in that first Test, England possess in James Anderson a trump card every bit as unique as Abrar Ahmed had proven to be in the course of his 11-wicket debut, but also 177 Tests and 20 years more experienced. Now as then, Anderson had been a notable absentee in the opening exchanges, as Stokes held his main man back to exploit the possibility of reverse swing. When he arrived for the first over of the afternoon, he quickly transformed the innings prognosis.

Anderson’s first four deliveries of the session were negotiated safely enough, but the fifth was simply unplayable – a full-length seaming delivery that angled in at Rizwan then jagged wickedly around his outside edge to hit the top of off. Rizwan looked dumbfounded as he turned to survey the wreckage, but he had to go for 30 from 43 balls, and England had their opening at 66 for 1.

Leach had been warming up to share the afternoon honours, but Stokes immediately signalled for Ollie Robinson to make it an all-seam attack. In his second over of the session, he too had produced a wonder-ball. With a hint of uneven bounce forcing Pakistan’s captain, Babar Azam, to play watchfully against the straight ball, Robinson instead hit the seam a full foot outside off, and Babar, seemingly grateful to be able to leave one, could only look on aghast at the ball zipped back to hit the top of off too.

Shafique all but succumbed to a near-identical delivery in Robinson’s next over, but he wouldn’t survive for much longer. Stokes rang the changes once more, recalling his quickest bowler, Mark Wood, in the final over before drinks, and with his very first ball, he burst another off-stump rattler through Shafique’s defences, again from wide of the crease, but keeping low as it skidded on with extra oomph.

At 83 for 3, Pakistan’s innings was pinned to the ropes. But with his notable willingness to save his seamers for the key moments, Stokes instead leaned heavily on his spinners with in-out fields, tempting Pakistan to hit through the phalanx of close catchers. Once again, his first-innings weapon, Jack Leach, was Stokes’ most trusted option, but with two left-handers lining him up, Leach endured some rough treatment, going at 4.40 in the course of his 20 overs. Until, of course, he produced the moment that repaid the faith, and unlocked England’s prospects of closing out the game.

The opportunities had kept coming regardless, up until that moment – on 4, Shakeel top-edged a slog-sweep off Root that fell short of Wood, set a few metres too deep at midwicket, while on 19, Imam drilled a hard chance back down the pitch at Will Jacks, who couldn’t cling on. The biggest let-off, however, came deep into the final session, as Imam, then on 54, flicked his bat at a leg-side lifter but Stokes declined the review that would have shown a faint tickle. It was the slightest indication that England’s captain was starting to feel the heat, as Imam and Shakeel grew in confidence with a series of sweetly-timed cover drives, particularly off the then-leaky Leach.

Despite the excitement generated by England’s trio of early wickets, England found little in the way of reverse-swing as the innings progressed, on a day-three pitch that was arguably playing at its best. Stokes himself resisted any temptation to break the emergency glass and bring himself on for a spell, although that prospect remains for an intriguing fourth-day finish, when only the draw will be off the table.

In spite of Pakistan’s relative success in the morning session, the major milestone had belonged to Brook, who converted his overnight 74 to his second hundred in four innings on this trip. By the time he holed out to deep square leg for 108, Brook had racked up 14 fours and a six in his 149-ball stay, replete with powerful strokeplay and impressive judgement of length, particularly against the spin of Abrar, who was once again Pakistan’s most threatening bowler, as he finished with 4 for 120, and an 11-wicket match haul on debut.

Abrar came in for some heavy blows in the first hour, however, with Brook seizing on a series of drags to the leg-side, and Stokes launching the same bowler over the straight boundary for six, to draw him level with his coach Brendon McCullum on 107 Test sixes, the most by any player.

Before he could convert that start into anything more meaningful, however, Stokes got underneath a heave to leg, where Ali on the midwicket boundary ran round for a well-judged catch. Robinson then missed a slog to leg as Abrar skidded a googly through his gate for his 11th wicket, before Wood poked a fast legbreak from Zahid Mahmood to slip and Anderson missed a reverse sweep to wrap up the innings. At that stage, and again after lunch, England were perfectly content with their match situation. By the close, notwithstanding Leach’s late breakthrough, they were a touch less comfortable.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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