Tea Pakistan 204 for 5 (Babar 71*, Salman 1*) vs England
But he lost two partners in the second hour of the middle session, with England clearly delighted to have taken five wickets by tea on a slow, dry pitch. It was Ahmed, expensive in his first spell as a Test cricketer before lunch, who made the first breakthrough, having Saud Shakeel caught at short leg.
Bowling from around the wicket, Ahmed had ripped a googly past Shakeel’s outside edge, planting a seed of doubt in the batter’s mind as he prodded forward to a full legbreak. With just a hint of spin off the pitch, Shakeel inside-edged into his pad and the ball ballooned up towards short leg, where Ollie Pope – back in the field after keeping wicket in the first two Tests – scrambled forward and dived at full stretch to take a brilliant low catch.
Ahmed, the Leicestershire legspinning allrounder, bowled with increased confidence in the second session, taking 1 for 22 in his seven overs after lunch compared to 0 for 37 in five before. He found plenty of drift and hints of turn, particularly with his sharply-spun googly, which Pakistan’s batters occasionally struggled to pick.
The other wicket in the second session was inexplicable. Joe Root, bowling his offbreaks from around the wicket, lobbed up a gentle half-volley which turned into a low toss as Mohammad Rizwan charged down the pitch. Looking to swing him over midwicket for six, he toe-ended an ungainly heave straight down Ben Stokes’ throat in the deep, sparking jubilant, disbelieving celebrations.
Babar pressed on unfazed, but Pakistan struggled to maintain their tempo as England bowled dry for the first hour after lunch. Across the second session, they scored at 3.14 runs per over, some way down on the rate of 4.62 they had managed before lunch and while they have picked a team with a long batting line-up, they will need significant contributions for the lower order if they are to post an imposing first-innings total.
Shan Masood, playing his first Test match since January 2021 after two seasons of prolific all-format run-making in domestic cricket, was positive early on, using his feet and twice hitting boundaries down the ground for four in Leach’s first over, but fell for a 37-ball 30, having earlier survived a close lbw shout on review while reverse-sweeping.
He had looked relatively assured against Mark Wood’s short-ball tactics, pulling him with control through square leg, but managed to miscue a 90mph/145kph bumper which he top-edged down to Leach at long leg.
That brought Babar to the crease, who played positively alongside Azhar Ali. They put pressure on Ahmed, who struggled for control of his length in his first five overs. Azhar pulled his third ball through midwicket for four as he dropped short, the first of six boundaries that Ahmed conceded across the course of the morning. Those included a thick outside edge for four from Babar, slashing at a wide legbreak, but the rest were played with controlled aggression.
Robinson bowled only three overs in his first spell before leaving the field for the best part of an hour with an upset stomach, but returned shortly before lunch to make the crucial breakthrough. Azhar, returning to the side after announcing his impending retirement, had found some rhythm and tempo after a quiet start but gloved a back-of-a-length ball down the leg side. Ben Foakes, back behind the stumps after sitting out of the first two Tests, took an excellent diving catch low to his left, which TV replays confirmed was a clean take.
Azhar’s inclusion was one of four changes Pakistan made from Multan, with Masood, Nauman Ali and debutant Mohammad Wasim jnr replacing Mohammad Nawaz, Zahid Mahmood, Mohammad Ali and the injured Imam-ul-Haq. For England, Ahmed and Foakes replaced Will Jacks and James Anderson.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98