London: That England have a challenge at their hands was evident as early as Pakistan’s first partnership of the Test series.
Openers Shan Masood and Abid Ali batted for 15 overs, leaving balls, getting forward and keeping James Anderson and Stuart Broad wicketless in the first hour of play. It was quite unlike what the West Indies had to offer with a bat only a week ago.
That discipline from Pakistan’s openers twinned with Babar Azam’s 14th Test fifty took them to 139/2 at the end of the rain-marred opening day in Manchester, when only 49 overs could be bowled.
Masood finished the day on 46* off 152 balls, playing the sheet anchor role for his team to perfection. The left-hander did endure a tough time facing Anderson from over the wicket early on in his innings, getting beaten as many as three times in just the first couple of overs. Against offspinner Dom Bess later, he enjoyed his fair share of luck and was twice let off on 45 by Jos Buttler behind the stumps — the first being an outside edge, and the second a missed stumping chance.
Abid, his opening partner, didn’t have much strike in the first half hour of play, but had his fair share of troubles and luck when he did. One of the outside edges off his bat nearly had him caught by Rory Burns at gully but he held his own in some challenging batting conditions.
It was only when Jofra Archer came along and softened him with a couple of bouncers, that he budged and let a nip-backer sneak through.
Azhar Ali’s lbw for a duck by Chris Woakes then redeemed the session for England. The Pakistan captain, suspecting an inside edge, immediately went for the review, which returned three reds instead and left Pakistan one review short.
From there on, it was a Babar Azam show.