NASSER HUSSAIN: Shambolic England bowling has let Pakistan off the hook… and Jimmy Anderson was most culpable on day one of the first Test
- England’s bowling just after lunch was poor after taking two cheap wickets
- They allowed Pakistan star batsman Babar Azam to play himself in early on
- Jos Buttler also had a tough day with a missed stumping and a dropped catch
- The game sometimes doesn’t do itself any favours as play stopped for bad light
It’s not often we need to be critical about England’s bowling but that spell after lunch on Wednesday at what could be a pivotal stage of this first Test was poor.
There have been plenty of times in recent years when England have been 30 for three and the batsmen have been found wanting but the bowling on the whole has been excellent, most recently in South Africa and against West Indies at Old Trafford.
But here England just got it wrong. They had taken two cheap wickets when the best batsman in the Pakistan side in Babar Azam came in and he struggled a bit at first. He was getting squared up by the bowlers and was looking nervy.
England’s spell with the ball after lunch was poor and they simply got it wrong on day one
Pakistan batsman Babar Akam was looking nervous early on but then found his stride
So the last thing England needed straight after lunch was to give a man who has averaged more than a hundred in his last five Tests a few free hits to get his confidence going.
Babar is a wonderful talent and will make you pay for any lack of discipline. But that’s exactly what England did and he cashed in.
Jimmy Anderson was most culpable. First there was a clip ball on the legside that was hit for four, then there was a leg-stump half-volley that also went to the boundary, and that set for the tone for a costly mini-session.
Anderson was certainly ticking. Whether that was because he was bowling into a strong breeze – he has said himself he’s not always happy to bowl from the end that bears his name here – and it was blowing straight into his face on Wednesday rather than across him like last week.
Or whether it was because he became frustrated because he cannot shine the ball with saliva in the current climate and it wasn’t swinging I don’t know.
Star bowler James Anderson was ticking, cross with himself and struggled to find any rhythm
But we had an angry Jimmy Anderson and inwardly he was probably cross with himself because he had very little rhythm in that spell.
Nobody really got it right with the possible exception of Stuart Broad who was okay. Jofra Archer started the day well but after lunch there was immediately a full toss to Shan Masood and then Dom Bess repeated that in his short spell and also bowled a lot of drive half-volleys.
When Bess comes on to bowl into the breeze at a time when the captain needs discipline his job is to bring control but he just has no control of length at the moment. He’s not expected to get a first innings five-for like he did at Port Elizabeth last winter but he has to dry up an end and he couldn’t do it.
And when he did bowl a couple of good balls to Masood and forced mistakes, Jos Buttler dropped the catch and missed a stumping. The only man not to blame was Chris Woakes who didn’t bowl after lunch.
We have to remember these guys are not machines and bowlers cannot just switch it on all the time. But it was like England were going through the motions expecting rain to come before it finally did and, frankly, that was rubbish. And that’s unusual.
Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler missed a clear stumping on a frustrating first day for England
It was all a bit shambolic and the rain actually came at a good time for England because it allowed them to re-group and remember the usual disciplines that have served them so well.
But when they did come back their hopes of putting things right on the first day were curtailed by bad light even though two spinners were bowling.
And that is hugely frustrating after all the hard work and expense that has gone into staging Test cricket this summer. The game really doesn’t do itself any favours at times.