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Pakistan Tightens the Grip on England at Lord's

The two-match series between England and Pakistan provides an opportunity for both teams to climb up the ICC Test ranking. Having reached the number one slot, though briefly, in 2016, Pakistan, finds itself as low as No.7 among the 12 Test nations. This represents a serious decline in the five-day format. The short England tour is hoped to kick-start its surge back amongst the top three.

SCORECARD

England 184: Cook 70, Abbas 4-23, Hasan 4-51
Pakistan 350-8: Babar 68 retired hurt, Shafiq 59, Shadab 52, Azhar 50
Pakistan lead by 166 runs

There was plenty of patience and application on display, as Pakistan dominated the 2nd day with four of its batsmen reaching the fifty mark. Now with a lead of 166 over England, it is set to exert more pressure with the ball on the third day. Babar Azam, retired hurt when hit just above the wrist by Stokes, hopes to resume his innings in the morning with a day’s top score of 68 to his name. His 84-run 4th wicket stand with Asad Shafiq (59), had earlier provided the stability in the middle order.

 The English camp despite losing the Ashes and a series against New Zealand in the long gruelling winter, sits at No.5 in the ICC ranking. It still continues to bank heavily on Jimmy Anderson, Alastair Cook, and Stuart Broad - all with 100 plus Tests to their name. Sooner or later, one senses, the selectors, will  be required to make some tough decisions regarding their future, particularly Anderson and Broad, the two pacemen. The pair in sharp contrast to an inexperienced Pakistan seam attack, struggled to bowl fuller lengths and exploit what could be termed as bowling conditions, on both days thus far.

 On the second day Ben Stokes was the pick of the England bowlers as he claimed three wickets, all of short balls. One of his victims, Sarfraz Ahmed, played a horrible shot for a number 6 batsman, to get out at the stroke of tea. Glad to report captain’s example was not followed by any of his team mates.

 Azhar Ali, the most experienced batsman among the tourists, following the retirement of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan in 2017, is an influential character in the Pakistan dressing room. In an eight-year international career, without a single Test match in front of a home crowd at Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi or Faisalabad, and the fact that he was overlooked for the captaincy, he remains rock solid in terms of keeping his personal batting contribution at par with the best in the world. And not losing the sight of his role to guide the young players in the team. His fighting 50 today was an example followed by the rest of his team mates as Pakistan finds itself in the driving seat, at close on the 2nd day.  

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