Sohail Khan more than repaid the Pakistan Tour Selection Committee’s faith in his inclusion in the side today the first day of the crunch Third Test Match at Edgbaston Birmingham by claiming five wickets with some effective and intelligent pace bowling. I am sure his mentor and guide Rashid Latif will be very pleased with the performance of this strongly built 32 year old from Malakand who now like many others including Shahid Afridi lives and plays for Karachi.
He can truly be described as a product of the Rashid Latif Cricket Academy. Playing only his third Test Match after a gap of five years he added five wickets today to his earlier tally of a solitary wicket (vs Zimbabwe in 2011) for 245 (he went wicketless in his debut Test at Karachi vs Sri Lanka in 2009. Sohail has a flowing run up and uses his powerful shoulders to deliver the ball at a fairly good pace and makes the deliveries swing effectively.
Within an hour and a half of play the cream of the English batting – Root, Hales and Cook had been skimmed away for 75 runs. Hales and Root were uprooted by Sohail Khan in the space of nine deliveries for eight runs, while Rahat sent back Cook. Pakistan’s policy must have been to focus on the prize wickets of the victors of Old Trafford – Cook and Root. And they succeeded in doing that. This put pressure of Vince and Ballance both playing to keep their places in the team.
Pakistan’s fielding today was a significant improvement on Lord’s and Old Trafford and Younis took a brilliant blinder in the slips to get rid of Vince off Sohail Khan and break an obdurate and stubborn 4th wicket partnership of 69 for the 4th wicket. Bairstow edged one to Sarfraz who was very efficient behind the wickets today taking five catches to make England 158 for 5 and Sohail had taken two wickets for 6 runs in 10 balls. Between tea and stumps England lost five wickets in 32 overs for 113 to be all out. Useful half centuries from Ballance and Moeen Ali and their partnership for the 6th wicket help boost England’s innings to just three shy of the 300 mark.
For once the latter half of the English innings had not added substantial runs. Pakistan’s fielding today was significantly better than at Lord’s and Old Trafford. Younis and Azhar took dazzling catches. Hafeez was safe in the slips and Sarfraz gloved everything which came his way. The ground fielding at times was patchy and runs were leaked. But this was bound to happen if throughout the major part of the innings when the Pakistan pace attack was in operation Misbah deployed four slips and a gully.
Today Umpire Dharmasena was extremely precise and effective as the third umpire and proved the effectiveness and utility of the DRS. His decision to give Moeen not out when the Pakistanis appealed for a catch at short leg which Oxenford gave out and the batsman requested a referral. Replays showed no contact with bat or glove as such Oxenford’s decision was wrong. However, the replays showed that had the Pakistanis appealed for lbw Moeen would have been out. But in the end Oxenford had given Moeen out caught which he was not. As such the decision was reversed.
The weather played hide and seek throughout. It was sunny at times and cloudy at others when the flood lights were switched on. But there were no interruptions. It started to rain about a quarter of an hour after close. Tomorrow there are showers forecast and Pakistan batsmen will have to be extra cautious. 297 is not a bad score considering the weather and the fact that England have four fast bowlers. Pakistan tomorrow will need a good start and also hope that the out of form Azhar Ali and Younis Khan contribute significant scores. Remember Pakistan will be batting last on this pitch; and also that they have never won a Test here.
England as already announce replaced the injured Stokes with Finn while Pakistan, as expected brought in a right arm pace bowler Sohail Khan in place of Wahab Riaz and Sami Aslam, came in for Shan Masood although it was felt that Shan should have been given another chance.
The Pakistani bowlers have delivered for their team. Now it is up to the batsmen to come to the party.