Frustration for Pakistan at Old Trafford
A 185 run record second-wicket stand between Cook and Root put England in a commanding position at the end of the 1st day’s play at Old Trafford. This was England’s highest 2nd wicket partnership in Tests at this ground since 138 by Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughn. Cook scored yet another century (his 29th In Tests) to herald his return to form and Root who had done his homework and followed the advice of his mentor was 141 not out at close having batted throughout by taking the unorthodox off stump guard to counter the three Pakistani left-arm pace bowlers bowling over the wicket and slanting the ball across the right-hander.
England did not gamble by playing two spinners and Adil Rashid went back to Yorkshire to play in a Twenty20 Championship game this evening. Ball and Finn had gone back for their county duties earlier. England has this custom of selecting the playing XI, sending back the “residue” from the squad and using the home county’s second XI staff players for substitute duties. With Stokes available and having bowled over 22 overs for Durham two days ago, England would have been able to play Adil Rashid as a second spinner and easily dropped either Vince or Ballance as Stokes is a brilliant batting all-rounder. Pakistan opted for an unchanged side that won at Lord’s.
Old Trafford presented a new look. The pitch has been relaid and the direction has been changed. To state it simply if it was east to west in the past now it is north to south. The press center and commentary positions were not behind the bowlers’ arms; now they are. A new stand is still under construction and a “temporary” with scaffoldings is in place. The good old hotel the Old Trafford Lodge is gone and work has already commenced on the building of a four-star 150 rooms Hilton Garden Inn scheduled to be opened next summer.
A lot of construction activity is in evidence with a huge bright pink and rusty orange crane catching the eye of all present. Old Trafford is smaller than Lord’s and has a capacity of 18000. Today it was not a full house with many seats available. The morning was glorious and sunny, the outfield luscious green and appeared to have been “hosed” and was damp. This would not allow the ball to be scuffed early and thus prevent it from a reverse swing. The pitch was biscuit beige and looked dry and perfect for batting. In the afternoon it became somewhat overcast and for some time after tea the lights were switched on more as a precaution rather than necessity; the sun reappeared and they had to be switched off.
Cook won the toss when Misbah called heads and this time it came down tails. This was Cook’s first win of the toss after four consecutive losses to Misbah. Without hesitation England batted. Alex Hales’s misery against the Pakistani pace continued as Amir in the last ball of the seventh over castled him with a beautiful inswinger which went between pad and bat to disturb the furniture and sound the death rattle.
Pakistan had to wait for another 185 runs and almost 50 overs before Amir struck again bowling Cook in the last over before tea with a ball which kept low and bowled the England captain – 210/2 and its time for a cuppa, sandwiches, biscuits and a bit of cake.
Vince was unconvincing and clueless and scored 18 in 30 balls with 4 fours before the ever-improving Rahat Ali found his outside edge to the delight of the Pakistan players particularly Younus Khan who had earlier floored a regulation catch from him in the slips. Younus sigh of relief must have been heard all the way in the neighboring white rose county of Yorkshire.
238/3. While Ballance pushed and prodded and cut. Just when it looked he was settling down Rahat Ali sent an absolutely marvelous delivery from over the wicket which moved late and cramped Ballance for space. Instead of cutting he went for a cross-batted stroke on the onside and was bowled. 311/4 with Chris Woakes the nightwatchman joining the brilliant Root to see the day off at 314/4 off 89 overs.
Root had gone from strength to strength and was sever on all Pakistan bowlers particularly Yasir Shah who went wicketless and conceded 111 runs in 31 overs. It was that Misbah may have kept on for far too long as in one spell he bowled 14 overs.
Wahab Riaz also went without success, and Azhar used for 2 overs of his leg-spin was unsuccessful. This proves the point that Pakistan go into a Test match one regular bowler short and it is unfortunate that they do not have the bowling services of that most useful all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez. It was also felt that there were some gaps in the field which yielded too many unnecessary runs.
In the first half of the England innings, there was no third man and it is estimated that almost 50 runs were scored in that area through edges and cuts.
The day belonged to England; to Cook and particularly to Root. He was a delight to watch. He was commanding, composed, authoritative, effective and productive. There is still him and a lot of England batting to follow. They must be looking at at least 450 if not 500. Pakistan needs to go to their Plan B.