England make Pakistan attack sweat on a flat track
Manchester – July 22, 2016: With two amongst its top three – captain Alastair Cook (105 – his 11th hundred as captain) and Joe Root (unconquered 141) at one-drop – having scored hundreds, England made hay on a mostly sunny day one here at Old Trafford.
From the word go, it went England’s way: with Misbah losing his first toss in eight Test matches, and Cook opting to bat first on a belter without batting an eyelid – something that his opposite number would have chosen with similar lack of hesitation.
Mohammad Amir had Alex Hales clean bowled early on, with the total at 25, but then Cook and Root combined to put the Pakistan attack to a hard grind on a lifeless pitch.
Both were elegant, with first Cook and later Root especially harsh on Yasir Shah; there was nothing tentative about their tackling of Yasir as, unlike Lord’s, both attacked him on the front foot, driving him on both sides of the wicket.
At the stroke of tea, Amir accounted for Cook – clean bowling him off the toe-end of his bat, but Root not just carried on but flourished, unleashing a flurry of boundary fetching strokes after his ton, the ones through the covers a spectators delight.
At the close, Root was unbeaten with Chris Woakes joining him at number six, protecting Jonny Bairstow. In between Rahat Ali first bowled Vince and then had Gary Balance caught behind by Sarfraz Ahmed to restore some semblance of balance, though it still tilted England’s way.
At the toss for this 2nd Investec Test Match at Old Trafford Pakistan named an unchanged team while England left Adil Rashid out from their remaining squad of twelve. Alastair Cook won a good toss on what looked like a flat track and elected to bat.
Cook and Hales put on 25 in the first half hour. Hales was given a chance when Asad Shafiq dropped him from a tough chance from Amir but three balls later with the score at 25 for 1, Amir dramatically bowled Hales, sending his middle and off stumps tumbling.
With just an hour gone, and the score at 47-1, Yasir Shah was brought into the action.
Cook and Root settled on what looked a good wicket for batting. They brought up the fifty partnership fifteen minutes before lunch.
By lunch they had moved the score onto 95-1. It was clearly England’s morning and batting had looked straightforward on a benign pitch. The challenge was for Pakistan to extract wickets after lunch with new plans.
Batting continued to look easy after lunch and Cook and Root further extended their partnership. Joe Root brought his fifty up pulling Rahat for four. Soon after Cook brought up his fiftieth test fifty too pushing Yasir down the ground.
A good delivery from Yasir brought a rare chance from Cook but it went just wide of Younus Khan at slip.
Cook went on to make the most of the let off and a series of flourishes meant he overtook Root – who had reached fifty first - in scoring. He hadn’t reached a hundred in ten tests but he looked set here.
This became England's highest second-wicket stand in a Test at Old Trafford, beating the 137 added by Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan against Australia in 2005.
Cook played a captain’s innings and brought up his 29th hundred with a couple from Amir – his first hundred since his epic innings against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi.
Amir was still working hard and drew an edge from Root. The next over he bowled Cook with a ball that kept low, took the inside edge of Cook’s bat and clattered into the stumps ending a partnership of 185 runs. The wicket also meant it was tea with England 210-2 and Pakistan going in in a happier state of mind.