As discussed in this space last week, Pakistan had their work cut out recovering from their Lord’s ecstasy. While the triumph at Lord’s indeed was redemption for the team in many ways, after a six year struggle in carving out its new identity, in the context of the ongoing tour it was just a single match in a four-game series. A series that has now been leveled after England’s thumping 330 run win at Old Trafford.
From the moment England batted first to the post-match conference, there was not a single moment where Pakistan were in the game. One might have forgiven the Lord’s hangover to impact the early play, but it evidently lingered on till the end of Day 4, by which time the hosts had made a complete mockery of Pakistan in every department.
When not a single player can come out of the four innings of a Test match and claim to have contributed anything meaningful to the contest, one knows that there was an absolute drubbing out there.
While you need 20 wickets to win a Test match, Pakistan only managed 9 in two innings, more than half of which were courtesy of England accelerating so that rain didn’t save their opponents’ skin.
Yasir Shah looked a shadow of the bowler he was at Lord’s and while that was largely due to the expertise of Alastair Cook and Joe Root’s batting, the leg-spinner was all over the place as well. After spending a week as the world’s highest ranked Test bowler, Yasir has now plummeted to number 5 after the no-show in Manchester.
But after Yasir’s heroics at Lord’s most would’ve expected the pacers to pick up the gauntlet. Neither Mohammed Amir nor Rahat Ali looked threatening with the new ball, while Wahab Riaz continues to struggle at convincing his critics that he belongs in Test cricket.
Even so, let’s take nothing away from Cook and Root, who made the most of the conditions on the first couple of days, and looked completely at home when things got overcast as well. And considering the batting strip, it would be an understatement to suggest that the Pakistani batsmen made absolute fools out of themselves.
Despite a mini start in the first innings, Shan Masood ended the match with a 6/6 against James Anderson who has now dismissed him six times on the bounce. Mohammed Hafeez has never looked like a Test match opening batsman and he isn’t going to start doing so anytime soon, especially outside the Subcontinent. His bowling test might come and save him, which is how he got in the Test side in the first place.
The openers’ failure is taken for granted; Pakistan haven’t managed a 50-run opening partnership in England for the past two decades. But it’s Azhar Ali and Younis Khan who have been the biggest disappointments of the tour so far. Azhar scored 9 runs combined in the two innings, while Younis managed 29. None of the Pakistani top 4 have managed a half century in the four innings on the tour.
Azhar has got out LBW three times in the four innings. England have a clear plan of targeting his pads, which he seems oblivious of. Meanwhile, Younis’ dismissal in the second innings was an absolute shocker. While it was clear after England’s first innings that Pakistan will only be batting to save the Test match, to get caught at long-on off Moen Ali is absolutely unfathomable.
Needless to say, the top four needs to go a lot more if Pakistan are to avoid a series defeat in England.
Misbah-ul-Haq continues to be the only batsman to show any persistent resistance. While the lower middle and lower order have performed in bits, you aren’t going to win any matches when all of your top 4 batsmen fail in unison. Pakistan might need to reconsider the openers, while Wahab would be lucky to retain his place in the side as well.
The next Test starts at Edgbaston on Wednesday, with the visitors getting a 2-day game against Worcestershire to regroup. A lot needs to go right for Pakistan, lest the Lord’s euphoria get drowned in the puddle of reality.