Mohammad Abbas set jitters in the English batting lineup…..

Prior to the start of the Lord’s Test, not many gave Pakistan a real chance, but the visiting side still had enough steam. England were playing in their own backyard, which is always a key factor in red-ball cricket, but not many would have expected Pakistani bowlers to wreak that kind of a havoc on the opening day of the Test.

England did have a lot of issues to be addressed in their line-up. Their batting looked a tad unsteady and to counter-attack that they made some canny changes, which hardly paid off in the first innings. In overcast conditions, with a surface that had enough grass to assist the seamers, Joe Root won the toss and opted to bat first. What happened next? A dramatic English collapse.

Pakistani seamers were dead right with their line and length and got the ball full enough to move in every direction. Eventually, England were undone for a paltry score of 184, which left many bewildered. Mohammad Abbas and Hasan Ali ran through the English line-up to share eight wickets between them and were well supported by other bowlers.

Mohammad Abbas set the tone for Pakistan by setting up Mark Stoneman with a peach of a delivery. Abbas was getting the new ball to swing, he knew what he had to do and kept most of his deliveries full or on a good length, moving them in both directions. Abbas enjoyed a fruitful run against Ireland as well, where he was the leading wicket-taker in the one-off Test. He adjusted to the conditions well and adapted quickly, Lord’s was no different.

The ability to adapt quickly and adjust your bowling is pivotal in Test cricket, and Abbas has shown immense signs in handful games so far. Abbas made Stoneman’s life very difficult out in the middle. He kept attacking and Stoneman didn’t have any answers to deliveries outside off. Abbas surprised the southpaw by getting one into the left-hander, he was in a bad position and ended up creating a huge gap between bat and pad; the red cherry kissed the timber and Pakistan were off to a flying start. This was not just a wicket, it was a game plan, it was an art, an art successfully delivered by Abbas.

In Test cricket, a bowler needs to earn his wicket. A batsman here will hardly give any chances as his primary job is not to score runs, but to survive in the middle. Abbas played with Stoneman’s mind, he kept him on his toes, thinking. The bowler was hardly predictable, which kept Stoneman thinking – what will happen next? Will the ball be full? Will it come in? Will it move out? When a bowler is dominating in such a fashion, survival becomes a herculean task.

Abbas didn’t stop there. Ben Stokes is the kind of a player, who can take the game away in a session, he looked good and got a good start. Abbas trapped him leg before, umpire ruled it not out but the decision was overturned. At times, tail-enders can turn out to be a real pain and England does have an effective lower-order. Abbas has been deadly against the tail as well and did get rid of Bess and Stuart Broad cheaply. Three of his four dismissals didn’t require any fielder, which speaks about his accuracy. He looks to attack the stumps and has earned fruitful results for doing so.

One wouldn’t be wrong in saying that this was a perfect day for Pakistan. They made some wise calls on the field, didn’t drop any catches, fielding was up to the mark, seamers were attacking and were astute with DRS. Not every time, this side inspires confidence on the field and does almost everything right, but this was Pakistan’s day, which was kick-started by Mohammad Abbas.

In Pakistan, the social media is brimming with comparisons between Abbas and Mohammad Asif. The latter was a class apart in terms of pure skills and was tipped to be the next big thing in Pakistani cricket. Abbas has exhibited similar bowling qualities and has already caught the attention of thousands. Just 8 Tests old, Abbas has already scalped 36 wickets with an innings to go, he surely has a long way to go.

It’s been a fantastic start for the visiting side and with their bowling firing with all cylinders, the problems are only on the rise for Englishmen. As of now, the Test is well in Pakistan’s command and if they manage to get a lead of at least 100, which looks quite achievable at this stage, they’ll have a big chance to win the encounter and take a lead. Abbas and Ali have done exceptionally well to steer Pakistan into the driver’s seat, the job is half done so far. Abbas was outstanding in the second innings of the Ireland Test, it will be interesting to see how he fares at Lord’s.

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