“England now have a mammoth task in the ultimate encounter, where they need a win at any cost to square the series. Hopefully, they rectify the mistakes and come out fighting at Leeds”.
England suffered a tragic defeat at the hands of Pakistan in the first Test at Lord’s. With just a game to go the onus of making a comeback is now on the hosts. England’s Test side has looked bereft of oomph in the recent times and failed to inspire confidence. They have been achieving newer heights in shorter formats, but the same confidence and panache have been missing in the longest format of the game. Including the defeat against Pakistan, England have now faired in eight games without a win. In fact, this was their sixth loss in eight games, including two drawn games.
Their batting looks a little unsteady and hasn’t lived up to the challenge in the recent times. They lost the last two series overseas against Australia and New Zealand respectively, but the fact that they fared poorly at home in the first game is astonishing. Their batting crumbled line nine pins in both the innings and were clearly outplayed by Pakistan. The visiting side won the game by a massive margin of nine wickets; let’s take a look at places where England kept losing the plot.
The pitch at Lord’s had grass on it before the toss and the conditions were conducive were swing bowling. It was overcast and ideal for English seamers to put in the hard yards. In my opinion, any side would have preferred to bowl first on this surface and look to clean the opposition early. Joe Root won the toss and opted to bat first, what happened next? A dramatic English collapse as they were bowled out for a paltry total of 184. Root and the English management must have had some tactic behind this, but it would have made more sense to bowl first on that wicket with overcast conditions.
England have the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad as their opening bowling attack. The former is a beast when it comes to swing bowling and the conditions were tailor-made for him to wreak havoc and get the better of Pakistani batting. Although this can’t justify the fact that England did play poorly, but the scenario would certainly have been different had they bowled first. Probably, they wanted to avoid chasing in the fourth innings, but bowling first on that wicket would have created problems for Pakistan and tested their batting. Pakistani seamers exploited the conditions to the fullest and wreaked havoc with the ball.
In the first innings, England were rebuilding at one stage, they were 168 for 5 and in desperate need of a partnership. But the wickets of a well set Ben Stokes swung the pendulum totally in Pakistan’s favour. They kept losing wickets at regular intervals, not just wickets; they kept losing ample of wickets.
England coach Trevor Bayliss backed Root’s decision of batting first and also said that the tactic would have been justified had their batsmen got some runs. Runs from the lower-order are always frustrating, there are no less than a bonus for the side getting it. After a well set Babar Azam was retired hurt, England should have cleaned up the Pakistani tail as early as possible, but it wasn’t to be. The crucial runs that Pakistani lower-order scored, including a fifty from Shadab Khan, steered the side to dominance. This was a crucial phase for both the sides, and one wouldn’t be wrong in saying England were under tremendous pressure after conceding such a massive lead.
England were fighting their way back into the second innings, they had a mountain to climb and a partnership was building between Joe Root and Dawid Malan. They were well placed at 91 for 2 and England had a lot of hopes pinned on this partnership. Mohammad Amir bowled a gem of a spell and broke this partnership, he inflicted further damage by getting rid of Jonny Bairstow for a duck a delivery later. Bairstow has been prolific in this English line-up, his early kill is always a boon for the opposition, Amir didn’t let him trouble the scorers at all. This over from Amir shattered all the English hopes.
Catches win matches; England also dropped too many catches in the first innings, which further didn’t help their cause as Pakistani batsmen capitalised on the reprieves. England now have a mammoth task in the ultimate encounter, where they need a win at any cost to square the series. Hopefully, they rectify the mistakes and come out fighting at Leeds.