It was a blustery morning at Southampton with great gusts of wind frequently sweeping the Ageas Bowl. The scene was almost reminiscent of the Old Trafford test last year at Ashes when the English bowlers struggled to maintain any rhythm or consistency on an abnormally windy day .
While at the toss, both captains watched the coin with desperate intent, praying to the cricket gods that lady luck would favour their team on such a vital test match. Joe Root’s prayers were answered as he won the toss and batted…
Rory Burns gave catching practice to the slip cordon as yet again the impressive Shaheen Shah Afridi’s hooping banana balls has proved kryptonite to Burns’s previously solid defence.
Despite the early blow, Sibley and Crawley played with fluency as Crawley, in particular rotated the strike with considerable ease and put the Pakistani bowlers under heaploads of pressure.
However, this brief resistance came to an abrupt end as Sibley came prancing down the wicket to a delivery that kept low and didn’t turn, by Yasir Shah and the ball went thumping into the pad of Dom Sibley.
That finger went up and Sibley reviewed but attempting to prove Michael Gough wrong is next to impossible as the umpire reminded why he is the undisputed number 1 umpire in the world and Sibley was sent to the pavillion.
At 73 for 2, the game was well and truly in the balance as Pakistan only needed one wicket to inch themselves closer to the tantalising prospect of feasting on the lengthy tail of the English batting lineup.
Joe Root and Zak Crawley, however, had different ideas as both of them ensured that England didn’t lose wickets in clusters, the secret ingredient for a monumental batting collapse, as they too were adept at keeping the run rate ticking without taking any unnecessary risks.
Just as things were looking rosy for the English, the 17 year old Naseem Shah ripped through the England skipper with an absolute ripper of a delivery that flew of the edge of Joe Root’s bat and Mohammad Rizwan leaped like a salmon to take a vitally important scalp.
Due to that jaffa, Joe Root’s lean patch continues as fans have started to lose faith in England’s “best” batsman. Let’s hope he can get back to his previously gluttonous run scoring form.
Not so long after, Ollie Pope fell to scintillating slider as Yasir Shah continued to weave his web. English batsmen have been doomed for failure when they play Yasir Shah of the back foot but Pakistani’s magician still finds ways to snare hapless batsmen in his deadly trap.
Next in was Jos Buttler and he immediately played with positivity as him and Zak Crawley nullified the imminent threat of the leg spin of Yasir Shah with brilliant footwork and aggression.
Soon Zak Crawley got himself to a well deserved ton as he showcased his crisp footwork and aesthetically flawless straight bat and Jos Buttler played some simply jaw dropping strokes of pure genius.
England were back on top!
In the last session, the Pakistani’s finally parted with their discipline as runs flowed with incredible ease as Buttler and Crawley cashed in on the sore and stiff bowlers. In almost no time, Jos Buttler finished on 87 and Crawley on 171.
Only time will tell if they can convert these scores into something truly extraordinary…