England 302 for 7 (Buttler 34*, Curran 16*) lead Pakistan 174 by 128 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The second Test at Headingley has officially been designated the Participation Test – a call to arms from the ECB for everyone with a passing interest in English cricket to get involved, and (so the unspoken reasoning goes…) help dig the sport out of something of an existential crisis.
Ever the diligent corporate citizens, England’s Test cricketers have been leading from the front in that regard at least, and will go into the third day against Pakistan with a solid advantage borne of a collective team effort. After a four-way share of the wickets in the first innings, today it was the turn of all the batsmen to chip in for the greater good.
A total of nine scores between 16 and 49 – everyone taking a turn but none for so long that their team-mates would get bored waiting – added up to an overnight lead of 128. It is the sort of position that ought, on the evidence of the series so far, to prove decisive. But it hardly added up to a decisive performance.
Pakistan simply kept chiselling away, their skilful attack finding sufficient magic at irregular intervals to dislodge a series of well-set players. But England were once again complicit in their own downfalls, and it was telling that their outstanding player of the day was their 20-year-old nightwatchman Dom Bess, whose cover-driving evoked Joe Root at his most fluent, but whose spin bowling – his primary suit – has yet to claim a Test wicket, or even bowl an over in this match.
Root himself is becoming something of a past master at the unconverted start, and once again, he inadvertently set the tone for England’s innings with a typically attractive but ultimately underwhelming 45. He was the first man to depart as play got underway at 2.45pm after a three-hour rain delay – snicking outside off as Mohammad Amir’s left-arm line once again exposed a slight chink in an otherwise enviable technique.
His technical issues, however, were as nothing compared to those that Dawid Malan was experiencing by the end of England’s winter in Australia and New Zealand. Like his fellow left-handers, Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings, he appeared to have reached for an off-the-peg remedy, in setting himself up outside of his crease and willing himself on to the front foot at every opportunity.
And just like Cook in particular, the approach appeared to be paying dividends for Malan, not least with the clarity of his cover-driving. He went to tea on 28 from 70 balls, with five fours to his name and the air of a batsman who had found the answer to his struggles. But then, from his first ball of the resumption, he received a snorter from that man Amir, which bounced and left him, taking the shoulder of the bat as it did so, before looping invitingly to slip.
Bess, by contrast, hasn’t got a care in the world right now. He’d like, presumably, to pick up that elusive first Test wicket at some point in the near future, but at the age of 20, and with the confidence of youth, he’s used his batting to showcase his credentials as a player who is made of The Right Stuff . A second consecutive Test fifty appeared a done deal, especially when he scuffed a Shadab Khan full toss to ease along to 49. But then one ball later, Shadab bit back with his best ball of the match so far – a fizzing top-spinning legbreak that slammed the gloves and nestled in the hands of slip before the batsman really knew what had happened.
Pakistan could – no, should – have taken three wickets for 20 runs in the space of five overs when Buttler, looking to bat with the same controlled belligerence that had briefly raised England’s spirits at Lord’s, clipped Shadab uppishly into the leg side, and straight through the hands of Hasan Ali at short midwicket. But the moment was lost, and so too seemed the momentum, especially when Jonny Bairstow successfully overturned an lbw appeal on 8, after offering no shot to Faheem Ashraf.
But that wasn’t quite the end of the resistance. Faheem got his man in his next over instead, as Bairstow nibbled outside off, having just helped himself to three fours in the space of seven balls. The fact that his dismissal came on the stroke of the 80th over rather added to the soft-headedness of the moment, even though Pakistan then chose to delay the new ball, perhaps to give Amir an extra over or two to gather his strength.
Either way, Mohammad Abbas didn’t waste it when he was finally handed it, and produced another pearler in the channel outside off to account for Chris Woakes for 17. It was left to Sam Curran to finish the day with a mini-flourish, two fours from the final three balls brought up England’s 300 and underlined their eventual dominance. But it had been a circuitous route to the top.