An erratic England bowling performance on day one of the first Test against Pakistan helped the visitors into a strong position at 139-2, before rain and bad light interrupted proceedings at Emirates Old Trafford.
Despite typically gloomy, overcast conditions, Pakistan opted to bat first after winning the toss and opener Shan Masood (46no) battled through a testing opening spell, while Babar Azam (69no) cashed in on a less disciplined display from England’s bowlers after lunch.
England put down Masood twice, on 22 and 45, with Jos Buttler – one of the guilty parties – also fluffing a stumping chance when the Pakistan batsman was five short of fifty.
James Anderson and Stuart Broad too beat Masood’s bat on numerous occasions in the morning, unfortunate to go wicketless in probing, opening spells; Jofra Archer (1-23) was the one to provide the breakthrough, bowling Abid Ali (16) through the gate, while Chris Woakes (1-14) trapped captain Azhar Ali lbw for a six-ball duck soon after a brief first break for rain.
When play paused for lunch, Babar had only four runs to his name from 27 balls, with Pakistan teetering at 53-2, but Pakistan added 66 over the next 16.1 wayward overs from England’s bowlers before a second, longer, rain interruption.
Babar swiftly progressing his score to 50 from 70 deliveries, bringing up a 14th Test half century and former England captain, and Sky Sports Cricket expert, Nasser Hussain did not hold back in his assessment of the bowling after lunch, saying: “They were absolutely rubbish, to be honest.
“You can’t say that about this England attack for a long time – South Africa they were brilliant, West Indies they were brilliant.
“You’re talking about Broad, Anderson, Archer and Woakes, I’m thinking that is one of England’s greatest ever attacks and they bowled absolutely pants there.
“You’ve got a bloke in Babar Azam, who is their gun player, who was struggling before lunch, getting all squared up. That is when you go hard at him, you don’t run up and bowl little leg-stump clip ball four, leg-stump clip ball four, full toss four. That was poor.
“The rain came at the right time for England because they got that horribly wrong in that hour.”
After a near three-hour break, in which England honed their heading skills, play resumed for 7.5 fairly uneventful overs of spin – bad light denying Joe Root from bowling his seamers, bar the remaining five balls of Archer’s over, in which he attempted some short-pitched bowling.
Masood did serve up another chance to Buttler, a possible stumping, with the wicketkeeper having dropped him earlier when Dom Bess got one to rip past left-hander’s outside edge, catching a faint nick on its way through.
Dom Sibley too put down a chance when Masood was on 22, failing to claw in one low to his left at third slip off Woakes.
Watch day two of the first Test between England and Pakistan, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10.30am on Thursday.