I have something of a bee in my bonnet so I’m going to do the writing before the photos again! All done, photos galore!
I’ve had the most wonderful day at Lords, largely in part to the most wonderful invitation I received from a cricketing friend Nigel and his friend Ammar. They very kindly invited to me to join them for Breakfast, Lunch and Afternoon Tea in the Thomas Lord Restaurant. Nigel, like me is a keen Essex fan as well as an all round cricket fan, Ammar is Scottish and works for Scotland cricket but is also a big Pakistan fan. They were both delightful company, the food and service was wonderful , the whole experience made the day very special and I’m very grateful to them for including me in their day.
And so to the cricket, those who know me will know I have a liking for Pakistan as a cricket team, they won me over when they played in England in 2016, then cemented that feeling when they won the Champions Trophy at The Oval in 2017.
One thing I’ve learnt about the Green Team, is that they are highly unpredictable, they were played off the park by India in the early rounds of the Champions Trophy and they then reversed that scenario in the final. This Test team is however, a very different team to the one that drew the series with England in 2016.
Both Misbah and Younis have retired and Yasir Shah who impressed in 2016 is out with an injury. There are many new faces in addition to the replacements for those 3, include the exciting Hassan Ali and Izamam ul-Haq’s nephew Imam. I’d seen the warm up match against Kent which proved to be of little use due to the joys of English weather. They drew both this match and the match with Leicestershire, but won the inaugural test match in Ireland, in spite of a Kevin O’Brien century. So some preparation for the visitors.
England on the other hand had scant preparation, with centrally contracted players being ‘withheld’ from their counties at the start of the season. Only Jonny Bairstow is in the Top 10 highest batting averages so far in 2018 with 181 runs from 2 matches and 4 innings, with a highest score of 95, Alastair Cook had played 5 innings in 3 matches, scoring 213 runs with a highest score of 84. In 2 matches and 4 innings Joe Root scored 72 runs with a highest score of 35.
Neither Ben Stokes nor Joe Buttler have taken part in a red ball game in 2018, and in fact Jos Buttler only played in 4 county games in 2017 having 6 innings and making 103 runs. The preparation for both men was the IPL, that’s WHITE BALL cricket, an altogether different game. I’ve seen 2 very fine centuries scored against my team Essex so far this summer, the first by Harry Brook of Yorkshire and the second Joe Clarke of Worcestershire. Both Ollie Pope of Surrey and James Hildreth of Somerset have scored 2 centuries so far in red ball cricket in 2018. Yet central contracts and a certain stubbornness means none of these men get a look in. And I won’t even start on Sam Northeast, who has a broken finger, would he have got a look in? I’d like to think so, but he hasn’t up until now!
There’s a very good saying used in business – Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail – I really believe that’s been the case here with England, that shows a lack of respect for both Pakistan and the paying public at Lords.
And so to the detail, I was eating my fairly reserved breakfast when the toss happened, the sound wasn’t on in the room but it was clear that Joe Root had won the toss, I couldn’t have been more surprised when he elected to bat. Pakistan have an inexperienced batting line up but as always a fiery bowling one, it felt like a big mistake to me.
Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman opened the batting, Amir and Abbas opened the bowling, Abbas was a new name to me, Amir is one of my favourite cricketers, especially after a successful spell at Essex last summer. Hassan Ali and Faheem Ashraf, another new name made up a fiery quartet of pace bowlers.
Abbas was the first to strike, removing Stoneman’s bails with a ball which was dead straight, my camera was poised to catch the bails almost hovering in the air. England were 12 for 1, when Joe Root, coming in at 3 in spite of a preference for batting at 4.
Cook had looked a little uncomfortable at the start of the innings but seemed to be getting his eye in. Root on the other hand wafted, and that is the only word I can use, at a ball he most certainly should have left from Hasan, to be caught by captain Sarfraz. (i’m going for the shorter version of his name this summer). That was the saviour at 3, gone for 4 and England at 33 for 2. A sign of his rustiness had been a crazy and unnecessary run, earlier in his short innings, he’d have been run out had the throw connected with the stumps.
Dawid Malan was next up, I have a confession to make, I do like Malan a lot, but I also very much like Hasan, so I’m afraid to say I cheered when Malan lost his wicket to the young bowler in his next over, another catch for Sarfraz, another rabbit in the headlights. And a familiar tale for England as they fell to 43 for 3.
In the meantime Cook was looking back to his best, Jonny Bairstow who is probably England’s best and most consistent batsman, joined him at the crease, coming in at 5. For a while England fans were given a glimmer of hope that things weren’t going to be all bad. Both men were playing some lovely shots, but, along came Faheem to bowl Bairstow and a lot of that hope was walking back to the pavilion. The pair had however put on a mighty 57.
In came one of the big hitters, Ben Stokes, now Stokes can take a backward step when needed and again looked to be in fine form, he hit young spin bowler Shadab for a mighty 6 then parried the rest of the balls in the over, this was going to be the man who stayed with Alastair to be part of a big partnership. However Alastair Cook, looking to be on for a century, was beaten by a great ball from Amir, he was bowled and out for 70. England were 149 for 5, with Cook accounting for nearly half of those runs.
In came Jos Buttler, a thoroughly nice man, and a white ball specialist, could he make me eat my words and pull off a decent test match innings? Basically, no he couldn’t, 2 balls after Stokes was out LBW to Abbas for 38 (from 64 balls) Buttler was walking back to the dressing room, caught by a brilliant catch from Shafiq from the bowling of Hassan.
England were 168 for 7 and really running out of batsmen capable of facing this impressive bowling line up, Dom Bess made 5 before being caught Shafiq from the bowling of Abbas, Stuart Broad was out for a Duck LBW to Abbas and Mar Wood made just 7 before Amir took a flying catch from the bowling of Hassan. England were done and dusted for 184 runs. Cook made 70 of those runs, leaving 114 for the rest, that really is woeful, great bowling line up or not!
Now the England bowlers would surely make hay with what time was left in the day, to make sure this wasn’t fully Pakistan’s day. Azhar Ali and Imam ul-haq opened the batting. Azhar has become a seasoned campaigner, Imam is a new boy, and he did indeed lose his wicket early making only 4 before being caught LBW by Stuart Broad, who actually bowled at the stumps for a change. Haris Sohail came in at 3, and in spite of many appeals the pair batted the day out to leave Pakistan on 50 for 1.
Needless to say Day 1 was all about Pakistan and although it’s shocking for me to say what I’m going to say next, as an England fan. England got what they deserved out of the day, underestimate Pakistan at your peril!
Pakistan Bowling Figures – a very good day at the office for Abbas in particular, now ca their batsmen back them up on Day 2?